consumption increases the risk of heart conditions such as
fibrillation, heart attack and congestive heart failure.
risk might be greater even in the absence of other confounding factors
like high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity.
findings oppose the previous studies which suggest that moderate
levels of alcohol consumption may offer protection against heart attack
and congestive heart failure.
Alcohol abuse increases the risk of
atrial fibrillation, heart attack and congestive heart failure as much as other
risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity.
Despite advances in prevention and
treatments, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US.
‘Reducing alcohol abuse might help in significant reductions of heart diseases.’
"We found that even if you have no
underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these
heart conditions," said lead researcher Gregory M. Marcus, MD, Director of
clinical research in the Division of Cardiology at the University of
California, San Francisco.
Annually, more than 610,000 Americans die
of heart disease which complies to one in every four deaths in the country.
Heart disease refers to several types of
heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is
, which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood
flow can cause a heart attack.
Other kinds of heart diseases may involve the valves
in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some
people are born with heart conditions known as congenital heart diseases
is also called a myocardial infarction. It occurs when a part
of the heart muscle does not receive enough blood flow. The damage in the muscle becomes greater
without proper treatment to restore blood flow. Every year, heart
attack affects 735,000 Americans and every 43 seconds, someone in the United
States has a heart attack. In
2015, more than 500,000 Americans experienced a first-time myocardial
, often called AFib or AF,
is the most common type of heart arrhythmia affecting 2.7-6.1 million people in
the United States. Arrhythmia means irregularity in heart rates where the heart beats too
slow or too fast.
When a person has AFib, the normal
beating in the upper chambers or atria of the heart becomes irregular and it
affects the pumping of blood from the atria to the lower chambers or ventricles of the heart.
(CHF) is a condition in which the heart fails to work
adequately as a pump that can deliver oxygen rich blood to support organs in
the body. About half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of
heart failure can be caused by:
in which the heart muscle weakens
in which the heart muscles stiffens
where oxygen demand by the body tissue is beyond the capacity of the heart
Drawbacks of Previous Studies
Previous studies have indicated that
moderate levels of alcohol consumption may offer protection against heart
attack and congestive heart failure.
The recent findings indicate that even low to moderate levels of alcohol
consumption can increase the incidence of atrial fibrillation
of the previous studies relied on patients who self-reported
alcohol abuse. Marcus said,
"that is an
unreliable measure, especially in those who drink heavily."
In an editorial accompanying the new
study, Michael H. Criqui, MD, MPH, of the University of California San Diego,
wrote that previous studies that found a benefit from alcohol consumption in
protecting against heart attack and congestive heart failure were cohort
Such studies that include defined population, tend to recruit stable, cooperative and health-conscious
participants who are more likely to be oriented toward a healthier lifestyle.
"Cohort studies have minimal
participation by true alcohol abusers, so the current study likely presents a
more valid picture of heavy drinking outcomes," Criqui said.
The researchers analyzed data of 14.7
million patients aged 21 and older, from a database of all California
residents, who received ambulatory surgery, emergency or inpatient medical care
in California between 2005 and 2009.
Among the patients in the database, 1.8%,
or approximately 268,000, had been diagnosed with alcohol abuse.
The researchers found that after taking
into account other risk factors, alcohol abuse was associated with
- Two-fold increased
risk of atrial fibrillation
increased risk of heart attack
increased risk of congestive heart failure
These increased risks were similar in
magnitude to other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and
In the United States alone, complete
eradication of alcohol abuse
would result in:
fewer atrial fibrillation cases
fewer heart attacks
fewer patients with congestive heart failure
"We were somewhat surprised to find
those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher
risk of a heart attack," Marcus said. "We hope this data will temper
the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for
excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These
data pretty clearly prove the opposite."
The current study has more validity as
data was extracted from reliable source like the medical records of patients in
which the alcohol abuse was documented.
But it does not quantify how much alcohol
Reducing alcohol abuse might result in
meaningful reductions of heart disease, researchers concluded.
The study is published in the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
- Gregory M. Marcus et al. Alcohol Abuse and Cardiac Disease. Journal of the American College of
Cardiology; (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.10.048
- Heart Disease Facts - (https:www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm)
Disease Fact Sheet - (https:www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm)
- Heart Attack - (https:www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm)
- Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet -
Failure Fact Sheet - (https:www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_failure.htm)