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Moderate amounts of alcohol increase heart disease risk in women


A new study has found that even consuming moderate amounts of alcohol can be a threat to the heart in women. The study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session has revealed that young to middle-aged women who drank more than one alcoholic beverage per day were more likely to develop heart disease compared with those who drank less.The study has been done by researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California.
A total of 432,265 participants between 18 to 65 age were studied. The participants did not have a history of heart disease or stroke. The research team identified which patients had a diagnosis of coronary heart disease in the following 4 years.
The participants were categorised as: low (1 to 2 drinks per week for men and women); moderate (3 to 14 drinks per week for men and 3 to 7 drinks per week for women); or high (15 or more drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women). Binge drinking was defined as more than 4 drinks for men or more than 3 drinks for women in a single day in the past 3 months.

Alcohol increases the risk of heart disease by 50%

The study found that young to middle-aged women who reported drinking 8 or more alcoholic beverages per week — more than one per day, on average — were 33% to 51% more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared with those who drank less. Women who were binge drinkers were 68% more likely to develop heart disease and men who reported binge drinking were 33% more likely to develop heart disease.

Isn’t alcohol healthy for the heart?

Several studies have shown that alcohol consumption has a positive effect on heart. It is a general understanding that alcohol consumption can impact heart health both positively and negatively. Moderate alcohol intake, particularly red wine, has been associated with potential cardiovascular benefits due to its antioxidants like resveratrol. “There has long been this idea that alcohol is good for the heart — but we are seeing growing evidence challenging that notion,” said lead author Jamal S. Rana, MD, PhD, a cardiologist with The Permanente Medical Group, and an adjunct investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. “Alcohol has been shown to raise blood pressure and lead to metabolic changes that are associated with inflammation and obesity, both of which increase the risk for heart disease,” said senior author Stacy A. Sterling, DrPH, MSW, a research scientist at the Division of Research. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, weakened heart muscles, and increased risk of heart disease. Chronic alcohol abuse can also contribute to conditions like cardiomyopathy and alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which significantly impair heart function. Therefore, while moderate alcohol consumption may offer some cardiovascular benefits, it’s essential to maintain moderation and consider individual health factors to safeguard heart health effectively.

Why are women at higher risk?

“Women also process alcohol differently than men due to biologic and physiologic differences, and this may contribute to the increased heart disease risk we found. It’s concerning because there has been an increasing prevalence of alcohol use among young and middle-aged women, including in the number of women who binge drink,” explains Stacy.

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