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Alcohol Increases The Risk Of Heart Disease

3 months, 3 weeks ago

4530  0
Posted on Mar 29, 2024, 2 p.m.

The safe amount of alcohol to drink is a topic of debate, in the past light drinking was suggested to be safe, but more recently, a growing body of evidence indicates that there is no safe level of drinking alcohol. Now a new large study from the American College of Cardiology adds to the accumulating evidence indicating that alcohol increases the risk of heart disease.

According to the researchers, young to middle-aged women who drank 8+ alcoholic beverages a week (more than one a day) were, on average, significantly more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to those who drank less. The risk was found to be highest among men and women who reported heavy episodic or binge drinking, and the link between heart disease and alcohol appears to be especially strong among women.

"When it comes to binge drinking, both men and women with excess alcohol consumption had a higher risk of heart disease," said Jamal Rana, MD, Ph.D., FACC, a cardiologist with The Permanente Medical Group, an adjunct investigator in the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California and the study's lead author. "For women, we find consistently higher risk even without binge drinking. I wasn't expecting these results among women in this lower age group because we usually see increased risk for heart disease among older women. It was definitely surprising."

The study focuses on a diverse cohort of adults between the ages of 18 to 65 years old without heart disease at the beginning of the study to examine the links between alcohol and heart disease. Data from over 430,000 people was used from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Integrated Health Organization where participant alcohol intake was collected during primary care visits. The relationship between alcohol intake from 2014-2015 and coronary heart disease diagnosis was analyzed over the four-year period that followed; people who did not drink alcohol were not included in the study. 

Low alcohol intake was considered as 1-2 drinks per week, moderate was 3 to 14 drinks a week for men and 3 to 7 for women, and high was 15+ per week for men and 8+ for women. Participants were also separately categorized as engaging in binge drinking or not, which was defined as drinking more than 4 drinks on the same day for men and more than 3 for women. 

During the 4-year follow-up, overall, 3,108 participants were diagnosed with coronary heart disease, and the incidence of coronary heart disease was found to be increased among those with higher levels of alcohol intake. Women with high alcohol intake had a 45% higher risk of heart disease compared to those with low intake and a 29% higher risk compared to those with moderate intake. Women who were binge drinkers were 68% more likely to develop heart disease compared to women with moderate intake. Overall, men with high intake were 33% more likely to develop heart disease compared to men with moderate alcohol intake.

"Women feel they're protected against heart disease until they're older, but this study shows that even when you're young or middle-aged, if you are a heavy alcohol user or binge drink, you are at risk for coronary heart disease," Rana said.

Additionally, women process alcohol differently than men, and alcohol has been shown to raise blood pressure and lead to metabolic changes that are associated with inflammation and obesity. 

"When it comes to heart disease, the number one thing that comes to mind is smoking, and we do not think about alcohol as one of the vital signs," Rana said. "I think a lot more awareness is needed, and alcohol should be part of routine health assessments moving forward."

It was noted that people tend to underestimate their alcohol consumption, as a result, the study is likely to provide conservative estimates of the heart disease risk associated with alcohol intake. 

This study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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References/Sources/Materials provided by:

No safe level of alcohol, scientific study concludes - UW Medicine | Newsroom

No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health (

Alcohol and health: all, none, or somewhere in-between? - The Lancet Rheumatology

No Amount of Alcohol Safe for Heart, Report Says (

Even just 1 alcoholic drink a day may increase blood pressure | American Heart Association

Routinely drinking alcohol may raise blood pressure even in adults without hypertension | American Heart Association

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