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Relations between alcohol consumption, heart rate, and heart rate variability in men
  1. J M Ryan*,
  2. L G Howes2
  1. *Alcohol and other Drugs Service, St George Hospital and Community Health Service
  2. 2Department of Clinical Pharmacology, St George Hospital UNSW, Kogarah, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor Laurence G Howes, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, St George Hospital UNSW, Gray Street, Kogarah NSW 2017, Australia;

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We have previously reported a strong positive association between average day time and nighttime heart rate measured during 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and usual alcohol intake.1 Acute alcohol consumption has been previously described to reduce ECG indices of vagal activity, and men who are severely dependent on alcohol have been reported to have significantly lower indices of cardiac vagal nerve activity than normal volunteers.2–,5 We performed 24 hour ambulatory ECG monitoring and power spectral analysis of heart rate variability in apparently healthy middle aged men to examine the association between alcohol consumption, heart rate, and indices of heart rate variability.


Twenty eight men aged 50 (9) years (range 33–68 years) who were free from clinically apparent alcohol related or cardiovascular diseases and receiving no medication were selected from volunteers responding to an advertisement in a local newspaper. The subjects’ blood pressures (128 (12)/75 (9) mm Hg), heart rate (72 (9) beats/min), body weight, and height were measured and their demographic details recorded. A detailed alcohol consumption history was taken by an experienced alcohol and other drugs nurse counsellor (JR). The information obtained included the duration that they had been consuming their current alcohol intake, the days of the week that they usually drank, and the amount of alcohol …

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