Alcohol and your heart: Just getting a buzz can trigger an irregular rhythm

"The effects of alcohol on your heart can be immediate, triggering an irregular rhythm called atrial fibrillation or AFib, according to new state-of-the-art research." - CNN

2018 related: No amount of alcohol is good for your overall health, global study says

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Bert Perry's picture

They didn't test just a "buzz"--mild intoxication but where someone is capable of functioning--but rather being legally too drunk to drive.  To draw a picture, a person my size (210 lbs) in the study would have five drinks before getting to that point; half a gallon of beer or an entire bottle of wine, and without food to absorb it in the stomach and slow transfer to the blood/body.  It also would be about a fifth to a third of my recommended daily calories--which is why we have the phrase "beer gut".  

It's also worth noting that they didn't actually demonstrate irregular rhythm or atrial fibrillation (that would raise some big ethical concerns), but rather precursors to the same.  

Verdict; the study is very interesting and does suggest that getting legally drunk can trigger some fairly serious effects in the heart.  However, CNN's article is misleading, understating the degree of intoxication and overstating the observed results.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

It would be hard for me to conclude that something God encouraged (in moderation) could be bad for you, as in the verse below regarding the Feast of Tabernacles. I use the same argument for those who try to push a vegan agenda.  I am not a drinker, so I have no agenda. Understood is that a lot of things done in moderation (even eating of meat) could be bad in excess, obviously.

Deuteronomy 14:26

and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

"The Midrash Detective"

RajeshG's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

It would be hard for me to conclude that something God encouraged (in moderation) could be bad for you, as in the verse below regarding the Feast of Tabernacles. I use the same argument for those who try to push a vegan agenda.  I am not a drinker, so I have no agenda. Understood is that a lot of things done in moderation (even eating of meat) could be bad in excess, obviously.

Deuteronomy 14:26

and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

What do you make of the following instruction from God, which demanded from Aaron and his sons not just moderation but also total abstinence whenever they would enter into the tabernacle of the congregation?

Leviticus 10:8 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.

Note also that the same essential demand is reiterated for those who will serve as priests in the Millennial Temple:

Ezekiel 44:21 Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

RajeshG wrote:

What do you make of the following instruction from God, which demanded from Aaron and his sons not just moderation but also total abstinence whenever they would enter into the tabernacle of the congregation?

I would understand this the same way that the command to "be fruitful and multiply" is not for when people gather together, either in the temple/tabernacle or the churches today.  I suspect that most if not all the regulations on the priests for how they worshiped before the Lord also were not followed when they were doing "normal life."  The vestments and other regulations were not in effect when they went to bed or when washing themselves, or when they cleaned their homes or took care of their animals and mucked out the stalls.

The simple answer for me as a layperson would be Ecc. 3:1: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

I can't speak for Ed, but one thing I would make of this is to note that prohibiting the priests "when ye go into the tabernacle" means that they were allowed to use wine or strong drink when they were not on duty.  Otherwise, the prohibition would be at all times, not just when they went into the Tabernacle.  It also implies that those who were not priests had no similar restrictions.  I say this as one who chooses to abstain from alcohol, but my commitment to teach the Bible honestly prohibits my forcing Scripture to say what it does not teach.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

Last time I checked, my last name was not "Cohen", and there wasn't a Temple or Tabernacle where animal sacrifices were being made, and it definitely wasn't my turn to participate in that.  

Which gives us one strong hint as to why the priests were not to have wine before going into the Tabernacle/Temple; part of their job was to swing a cubit-long, razor sharp (and stropped, not just sharpened) blade into the throats of animals who probably weren't always cooperative, and whose handlers may not have been totally in control of the situation.  A blood alcohol level that might have been perfectly fine for everyday work or (in today's terms) even driving degrades fine motor skills that are critical to this kind of endeavor.

And again, if you're at a wedding in Cana or the like, that condition does not apply.  Enjoy, or abstain, with a good conscience.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

I think that Jaeggli's point about the health benefits of alcohol consumption is well taken. He notes that no medical professional encourages people to start drinking to help their heart, rather they counsel those who already drink to practice moderation. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

I've been told by a couple of people that their doctor advised them to drink one glass of wine in the evening to help their heart.  That goes back twenty years or so.  Do doctors do that now?  I don't know.  Did they actually do that then, or did people "make that up" to explain why they drink wine?  I would love to know.

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I've been told by a couple of people that their doctor advised them to drink one glass of wine in the evening to help their heart.  That goes back twenty years or so.  Do doctors do that now?  I don't know.  Did they actually do that then, or did people "make that up" to explain why they drink wine?  I would love to know.

I had a massive heart attack 4 years ago and have asked the wine question of every cardiologist I've had (there have been many) as well as my PCP's. Each one has said that a glass of wine a day is not harmful and may be of minimal benefit. It was good to know but I don't like wine so it didn't matter. A few of them said that the benefits of a single beer was similar but more fattening. : )

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

I've personally had my doctors point to red wine as a way of helping my heart.  Not run of the mill guys, either; residents at Mayo Medical.  Other friends of mine have been counseled to do the same in other clinics.  So if indeed Jaeggli claims that no medical professional encourages people to start drinking to help their hearts, he's wrong.  Red wine also plays a prominent role, in moderation, in the recommendations for healthy life endorsed in The Blue Zones.  

I wonder if the original version of his book--the one before BJU Press pulled and revised it--contained this mistake.  Many doctors are reluctant to tell patients to enjoy red wine simply because they don't know them well enough to know whether they are in fact teetotalers, or whether they might be latent alcoholics or problem drinkers, but the recommendation is often made.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Randy Jaeggi said:

I think that Jaeggli's point about the health benefits of alcohol consumption is well taken. He notes that no medical professional encourages people to start drinking to help their heart, rather they counsel those who already drink to practice moderation.

Not always the case.  Some do counsel non-drinkers to drink moderately for their heart.  At the same time, even moderate drinking can harm your liver.  And for many of us, alcoholic beverages also interact with medications.

Rajesh, G.N. Barkman, and Bert Perry did a great job answering the objection about priests not drinking. The whole comman applied to the times they served, not all year and nor all day. In Leviticus 10:1-11, it seems (notice I am saying "seems," not "says") that Nadab and Abihu offered unathorized incense and were srticken dead because they were aneb... anabb. enibrea.... uh, drunk.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

I could look up the reference if I were so inclined. I don't think I misrepresented what Jaeggli said, but there's always a chance. If your doctor says drink some wine, go ahead. It doesn't matter to me, but I don't think it's a general medical recommendation for heart health. 

Bert Perry's picture

Ed: "inebriated"

Another error Jaeggli makes which is appropriate to the topic here is the contention that it's "easy" go from moderate/safe consumption to excessive consumption.  Superficially, that might seem to be the case with hard liquor--going from 1 or 2 drinks in the safe zone to four or more is only 100-150ml, about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup--there are a bunch of things that servers and drinkers do to stay in the safe zone and help others avoid going into the danger zone.  

For starters, responsible drinkers take care to sip/smell/taste their drinks, while those trying to get drunk tend to mask the taste/guzzle--it's like those Mountain Dew commercials from the 1980s where any contact the soda made with the taste buds is purely accidental.  (yes, comment on gluttony there!)  Getting seriously drunk requires guzzling because at a certain point of moderate drunkenness, one cannot get the bottle or cup and pour the liquid into one's mouth anymore.

Going further, servers and friends tend to note other signs that a person is trying to get drunk, including ordering drink after drink, drinking cheap liquor, drinking alone, and drinking liquor that isn't easily smelled on one's breath.  (my mom worked in a hospital where they had an alcohol treatment center, and they were always on the lookout for bottles from vodka or creme de menthe for this reason....other things were easily smelled, but people would smuggle that in)

Servers especially watch out for signs of drunkenness, because many states and nations allow restaurants, bars, and even servers to be held liable for the results when a person who's visibly drunk leaves the place and gets behind the wheel or does something else foolish.  

So really, while it seems "easy" to go from responsible to irresponsible drinking, there are really a whole set of behavioral norms and social constraints that work against it, and allow irresponsible drinking to be detected and stopped.  That is, really, my major problem with the CNN article cited here--it conflates the two, and hence will lead people to very false conclusions.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

Yes, Bert. It's very hard to abuse alcohol. That's why so few people do it. 

Bert Perry's picture

pvawter wrote:

Yes, Bert. It's very hard to abuse alcohol. That's why so few people do it. 

Let's go with what I actually wrote; that the contention that it's easy to go from responsible consumption to excessive consumption is false.  And I stand by that for the reasons I stated.  If you're in the habit of actually smelling and tasting what's going into your mouth, there are going to be some very real barriers to just pouring things down, especially if what you've got to do to do so is to start buying stuff from a couple shelves below where you ordinarily buy, which is generally the case.  

You're not going to like the pattern of consumption, you're not going to like the taste, you're not going to like what it does to your body. 

No doubt that many people can and do abuse alcohol.  However, they generally don't get there because they were using responsibly and it just crept up on them.  They get there by deciding to use alcohol like people use hotdish at Baptist potlucks.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I come from a long line of alcoholics on both sides of the family.  In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, they used to put beer in the baby bottle, I am told.  Not sure they still do, though.

Most of us know how complex this issue is.  There certainly is a genetic factor.  Native Americans, for example, process alcohol differently, and it is easier for native Americans, I understand, to become alcoholics.  My wife's dad (Italian descent) drank a glass of wine every day after dinner (some call it supper), and was never drunk a day in his life.

Some people can handle drinking better than others, and people who use it to self-medicate are more prone to become addicted.  One size doesn't fit all, but we have to be cautious about this.   I have no doubt, had I not gotten saved at the age of 17, I would be an alcoholic.  I don't want to follow my dad, both of his brothers, and both of my grandfathers, so I stay away from the stuff.

I have read numerous articles that say drinking a glass of wine a day is good for heart health.  But, apparently, the CDC does not agree!

It seems Pvawter is right and I stand corrected:

 I don't think it's a general medical recommendation for heart health. 

The CDC recommends not drinking, to my surprise.  Here is the link and then the quotation:  https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm 

The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

Still, I would argue that it cannot be bad because God commanded it and even received wine offerings.  I think it is probably modern lifestyles as a whole that make it more of an issue.

The same article from the CDC adds:

Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.

The facts are beginning to affect my thinking on this.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Ed, agreed that culture is the big driver here--you can see it as a difference in alcoholism rates between the Latin-speaking nations vs. that of the Slavic nations or Nordic nations.  For that matter, you can even see it in Russia, where young people whose drinking habits mirror those of the French not surprisingly have alcohol issues like....those of the French, not those of Russians.  It's a wonderful thing starting there--rare good news in that part of the world.

Regarding the CDC, it's simple. They know their recommendation will be read by problem drinkers.  Hence they tell problem drinkers to knock it off.  Since your doctor knows that you are a person and not a statistic, he can figure out whether you are likely to be a problem drinker, and he's free to give you advice that is different from that of the CDC.

And really, that's the same thing that goes in in Scripture.  God knows what is in a man, hence He states that wine is a blessing, drunkenness a curse.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

pvawter's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

pvawter wrote:

 

Yes, Bert. It's very hard to abuse alcohol. That's why so few people do it. 

 

 

Let's go with what I actually wrote; that the contention that it's easy to go from responsible consumption to excessive consumption is false.  And I stand by that for the reasons I stated.  If you're in the habit of actually smelling and tasting what's going into your mouth, there are going to be some very real barriers to just pouring things down, especially if what you've got to do to do so is to start buying stuff from a couple shelves below where you ordinarily buy, which is generally the case.  

You're not going to like the pattern of consumption, you're not going to like the taste, you're not going to like what it does to your body. 

No doubt that many people can and do abuse alcohol.  However, they generally don't get there because they were using responsibly and it just crept up on them.  They get there by deciding to use alcohol like people use hotdish at Baptist potlucks.

Relax, Bert. You're living up to your tag line too well. I never said that drinking was sin and neither does Jaeggli. But let's not pretend that moderate drinking is the prevailing category in the world or in these United States. As many have pointed out here and everywhere this has ever been discussed, the risks of drinking are serious and the health benefits marginal at best. If your doctor says, "Drink!" Then go ahead, but give me his number, because there almost 6M citizens of Wisconsin, most of whom want the green light, too.

Bert Perry's picture

Paul, I've got to say this is the first time I've been called a stick in the mud for saying that people can enjoy wine in good conscience.

Regarding your claim that most drinkers don't use it responsibly, take a close look at what Ed's source says.  It merely says that two third of drinkers exceed "moderate" levels at least once a month.  That's one drink in a day for women and two for men.  So if a woman pours her glass of wine just a bit over five ounces, BOOM, she's in that "problem" category even though she's sober enough (~0.025 BAC) to fly a plane legally.  For a man, a generously poured glass of wine and a champagne toast at a wedding reception puts him over that limit--though he's also pretty much legal to fly a plane.

And that's why I push back here; it appears that a lot of the "statistics" used in this area by the government are, put very charitably, nonsense, in the category of Disraeli; "lies, d**ned lies, and statistics", and there's a reason they're using them; it gives them an excuse for control. 

You may not think you care, but if the NIAAA is calling a third of adults "problem drinkers" because they've had more than four drinks once in their life (they are) when the real problem population is those who routinely get drunk--those who do so over five times per month are only 6.3% of adults.   If you concentrate on those who occasionally "have more than the regulators would like" instead of those showing clear patterns of concern (DSM's 11 criteria for alcohol abuse), you're going to end up needlessly limiting the freedom of the many and ignoring the very real needs of the few.

And I think that's a big deal.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

The BINGO goes to Bert this time. Bert's arguments are spot on.  Bert you get the Bubble Gum Cigar this time.  However business for alcoholic drinks has never been better during this Covid 19 epidemic. My question is how many new substance abusers will we develop from Covid 19.  Be it alcohol painkillers heroin whatever.  Maybe the church needs to be a little more concerned than usual about this.  Many people are growing weary and dropping their guard or having mental health issues.