LOS ANGELES, April 3 — Research from the US associates alcohol consumption with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is particularly the case among women, for whom even moderate alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk.

According to research by scientists at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (USA), women who drink alcohol are at greater risk of developing heart disease. The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session, analysed data from 430,000 people aged 18 to 65.

Subjects were free of heart disease at baseline, in order to study the link between their alcohol consumption and the risk of developing coronary heart disease over four years of follow-up. At the end of the study period, 3,018 participants were diagnosed with coronary heart disease. The scientists noted that the incidence of this condition increased with alcohol consumption levels.

Moreover, the link between alcohol and cardiovascular disease appears to be stronger in women. Women who reported heavy drinking (more than eight drinks a week) had a 45 per cent higher risk of heart disease than women who reported moderate drinking (three to seven drinks a week), compared with a 33 per cent risk among men. Women who reported moderate drinking had a 29 per cent higher risk than women who reported low consumption (one to two drinks a week). Women who engaged in binge drinking (more than three drinks in a single day) were 68 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than women reporting moderate alcohol consumption.

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“For women, we find consistently higher risk even without binge drinking,” the study’s lead author, Jamal Rana, explains in a news release. “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.”

The study’s authors point out that alcohol increases blood pressure and can lead to “metabolic changes that are associated with inflammation and obesity.” They add that women process alcohol differently from men, which modifies their risks.

Despite some limitations to be taken into account (notably the declarative nature of responses), the research “calls attention to the health risks of alcohol consumption and underscores the importance of considering alcohol use in heart disease risk assessment and prevention efforts.”

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“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,” Jamal Rana says. “I think a lot more awareness is needed, and alcohol should be part of routine health assessments moving forward.” — ETX Studio