CSANZ young investigator of the year tackles heart arrhythmia

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President of CSANZ Professor Leonard Kritharides with the recipient of the Ralph Reader Prize, Dr Alex Voskoboinik.
Heart Foundation-funded researcher, Dr Alex Voskoboinik, has been awarded the Ralph Reader Prize for young investigator 2019 at the CSANZ scientific meeting in Adelaide.

Dr Voskoboinik is part of a team at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne that is researching the effects that moderate alcohol intake and abstinence have on atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF, which is the most common form of irregular heartbeat affecting Australians, can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and death.

While excessive alcohol intake has long been known to be a risk factor for AF, the Baker Institute’s team is studying moderate drinkers who have AF, and whether cutting out alcohol altogether can reduce the recurrence and progression of AF.

Dr Voskoboinik presented early results at the CSANZ (Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand) meeting. The study found that for patients with a history of atrial fibrillation who drank moderate quantities of alcohol, a six-month period of abstinence was associated with:

  • a lower risk of recurrent AF episodes
  • fewer symptoms.
  • a fall in systolic blood pressure.
  • a fall in weight

While AF is usually treated with medication and surgical procedures, Dr Voskoboinik said recent attention had shifted to the importance of lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and obesity.

He expects that the research will lead to a greater emphasis on alcohol reduction strategies in tackling AF.

The Heart Foundation’s General Manager of Heart Health, Bill Stavreski, said AF was the most common form of heart arrhythmia, and more than half a million Australians were living with the condition. 

“It is an important area of research, and it has the potential to have a major benefit for Australians living with the condition,” Mr Stavreski said.

The National Heart Foundation and the CSANZ released clinical guidelines to support health professionals in the diagnosis and management of AF last year.