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A Study Discovers That Having Alcohol and Then Sleeping on a Plane Could Damage Your Heart

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Traveling on vacation is frequently cause for celebration, with many passengers partaking in a pre-flight cocktail before dozing off. A recent study, however, indicates that this widespread practice may be detrimental to your heart.

German researchers have found that the combination of alcohol consumed during flight and cabin pressure at cruise altitude might significantly increase cardiac strain in passengers during sleep. Researchers at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine discovered that even in young, healthy people, this combination lowers blood oxygen levels and raises heart rates.

“We were taken aback by how significant the effect was,” the study’s co-author, Dr. Eva-Maria Elmenhorst, stated. “Please don’t drink alcohol while being on an airplane,” she asked.

The study, which was published in the journal Thorax, emphasizes that travelers with cardiac issues are at higher risk. Reduced cabin pressure at cruise altitude, which is made worse by sleep, can make symptoms worse; drinking alcohol increases this risk even more.

“The on-board consumption of alcohol is an underestimated health risk that could be easily avoided,” the investigators stated. They proposed that rules limiting passengers’ access to alcoholic beverages during flights might need to be reexamined by airlines.

48 subjects between the ages of 18 and 40 were tested in two distinct settings for the study: an altitude chamber and a sleep laboratory. Prior to one of the nights, participants drank alcohol, which gave researchers the opportunity to study the effects of alcohol in a hypobaric (low pressure) setting.

Dr. Elmenhorst stressed that although young, healthy individuals are unlikely to experience significant cardiac damage, the combination of elevated heart rate and lower oxygen saturation may exacerbate pre-existing medical issues. According to the study, this combination aggravated the cardiovascular system, prolonged low blood oxygen levels, and decreased the quality of sleep.

“Together these results indicate that, even in young and healthy individuals, the combination of alcohol intake with sleeping under hypobaric conditions poses a considerable strain on the cardiac system and might lead to exacerbation of symptoms in patients with cardiac or pulmonary diseases,” the authors wrote.

According to Dr. Elmenhorst, “the oxygen saturation dropped to quite low levels during sleep.” “This is why I would recommend avoiding alcohol even when someone is healthy.”

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