- Moderate alcohol
intake lowers the risk of angina, heart failure and ischemic stroke.
intake of alcohol refers to 112gms of alcohol per week which is equivalent
to seven pints of lager or beer.
- It is not advisable to consume
alcohol, if you are not used to it, and it is wise to cut down the intake to less than 14 units, if you enjoy drinking.
Alcohol intake and its effect
on heart health is a long-debated topic. A large study
of UK adults published by The BMJ finds that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk
of several, but not all, cardiovascular diseases.
Moderate drinking is not
universally associated with a lower risk of all cardiovascular conditions.
However, it increases the risk of atrial fibrillation
heart attack and congestive heart failure
‘Moderate drinking is not universally associated with a lower risk of all cardiovascular conditions. But its effect is specific in angina, ischemic stroke and heart failure.’
An Observational Study
The impact of alcohol intake was
examined by analyzing electronic health records for 1.93 million healthy UK
adults, as part of the CALIBER (Clinical research using Linked Bespoke studies
and Electronic health Records) data resource.
Twelve of the most common
manifestations of cardiovascular disease that was associated with moderate
- Chronic stable
angina, unstable angina or chest pain is a discomfort that occurs if an area
of your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood
infarction: MI or heart
attack is disruption of blood supply to the heart usually by a blood clot.
- Unheralded death
from coronary heart disease
- Heart failure: This isoften referred to as congestive heart failure (CHF), which occurs when
the heart is
unable to pump sufficiently, thereby failing to maintain the blood
flow to meet the body's needs. A previous heart
attack, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, valvular heart disease, excess
alcohol use, infection,
and cardiomyopathy of an unknown cause, can trigger a change in the heart's structure resulting in heart failure.
- Cardiac arrest /sudden coronary death: Sudden, unexpected loss
of heart function, breathing and consciousness.
ischaemic attack: A mini stroke
which lasts for 24 hours and occurs due to temporary disruption in the
blood supply to various parts of
- Ischemic stroke: Obstruction
within ablood vessel
supplying blood to the brain due to development of fatty deposits lining
the vessel walls.
hemorrhage: Cranial bleeding takes place when
a diseased blood vessel within the brain bursts and the blood leaks inside
the brain. Hypertension is the most common cause of this kind of
Hemorrhage: Bleeding within the space between
the brain and the tissues that cover it.
arterial disease: Build up of
plaque that blocks the arteries which supply blood to the head and limbs.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: Swelling of the
aorta - the main blood
vessel that leads from the heart through the abdomen into the
rest of the body.
At the start of the study, all
participants were free from heart disease. Those who consumed alcohol were categorized into former
drinkers, occasional drinkers and non-drinkers.
The risk of angina, heart
failure and ischemic stroke was lower among moderate drinkers compared to those
who abstained from alcohol.
Heart disease does not refer to a single
condition. There are various types of heart diseases, of which coronary artery disease (affecting the blood flow to the heart) is most common. Coronary
artery disease is associated with angina pectoris or chest pain and
atherosclerosis which is hardening or narrowing of the arteries resulting in
disrupted blood flow.
How much is too much?
A unit denotes 10ml or 8gms of
alcohol. Moderate drinking
is defined as 14 units of alcohol per week
is more than 14 units
The14-unit recommended maximum
is equivalent to a little more than nine small 125ml glasses of wine, 14 single
measures of spirits or seven pints of lager or beer.
How is moderate drinking helpful?
Moderate drinking increases HDL
transports the fat in the cells to the liver for storage and reduces the risk
of heart disease.
However, it is not wise to
take up the habit of drinking alcohol just
because it lowers the risk of certain heart disease
Rather, staying physically active, smoking cessation and a healthy diet can
reduce the risk of all heart diseases.
Why is excessive drinking harmful?
Heavy drinking, defined as more
than 112 grams per week is known to reduce elasticity of arteries, making it
stiff and interfering with the blood flow.
Excessive alcohol consumption
the risk for alcohol dependency, cardiovascular risk factors including
high blood pressure and obesity, stroke, certain types of cancer, suicide
the elasticity of the arterial walls (arterial stiffness), interfering
with the blood flow
in prematurely aged arteries, increasing the risk for heart disease.
certain enzymes that would lead to collagen accumulation, which could, in
turn exacerbate the rate of arterial stiffening.
Heavy drinkers are at a lower
risk of heart attack and angina compared to moderate drinkers. The authors
explain that heavy drinkers may experience a heart attack in the future but it
may not be the first diagnosis.
The study is an observational
one and hence no firm conclusions can be drawn on
the cause and effect. The authors point out that it is the
first time this association has been investigated on such a large scale.
Researchers at Harvard Medical
School and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the US say this study
"does not offer a materially new view of the associations between alcohol
consumed within recommended limits and risk of cardiovascular disease."
"This work, however, sets
the stage for ever larger and more sophisticated studies that will attempt to
harness the flood of big data into a stream of useful, reliable, and unbiased
findings that can inform public health, clinical care, and the direction of
future research," they conclude.
- Alcohol Consumption and Heart Failure -