A Japanese study has revealed that the quantity of alcohol consumption may affect heart and stroke risk in men and women differently.
"An amount of alcohol that may be beneficial for men is not good for women at all," said Dr. Hiroyasu Iso, a professor of public health at Osaka University who jointly wrote the study report, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
During the study, data from a survey of 34,776 men and 48,906 women was analysed.
The participants were selected from the larger Japan Collaborative Cohort Study (JACC) to determine the association of alcohol use with the risks of stroke and heart disease.
Those who had not experienced cancer, stroke or heart disease before the study completed questionnaires about their lifestyles and medical histories, providing information about their drinking of rice wine, brandy, beer, whiskey and/or wine.
The researchers say that they calculated the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption after adjusting for age and several other risk factors-such as smoking, weight, body mass index, the presence of high blood pressure or diabetes, exercise habits, stress, education, and diet.
During a 14.2-year follow-up, 1,628 participants died from stroke and 736 died from heart disease.
It was observed that men who reported drinking heavily-at least 46 grams of alcohol per day-at the time of the survey had a 19 percent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease than those who did not drink at all.
On the other hand, women who drank that much quadrupled their risk of heart disease death over that of non-drinking women.
Light drinking-less than 23 grams of alcohol per day-reported on the survey was associated with a lower risk of heart disease death in women by 17 percent, while intake between 23 and 46 grams per day was associated with an increased risk of 45 percent.
"In women, we found a slightly reduced risk with light consumption but a much greater risk with heavy alcohol use," Iso said.
The study revealed that, in men, heavy alcohol use was associated with an increased risk of death from all types of stroke by 48 percent.
The risk of hemorrhagic stroke was increased 67 percent, while the risk of ischemic stroke was higher by 35 percent.
In women, heavy alcohol use was associated with a higher risk of stroke death by 92 percent. Hemorrhagic stroke death risk was increased by 61 percent, while the risk of ischemic stroke death was increased 2.43 times.
"We expected to find an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. But since alcohol reduces the ability of the blood to clot, we didn't expect to find the increases in ischemic stroke and coronary heart disease," Iso said.
The researcher said that only 15 percent of women in JACC drank any alcohol, far less than the 45.9 percent of U.S. women who reported using alcohol in 2005.
"One limitation of the study is that, in Japanese culture, there are social restrictions against women drinking as they get older. In that culture, the women who do drink may have different types of jobs or other aspects of their lifestyle that may help explain the excess risk as well as the alcohol exposure itself," Iso said.
The researchers said more research could help determine how alcohol affects cardiovascular risk.