Drilling down on alcohol and heart disease
A number of studies have looked at the association between alcohol consumption and heart disease, with varying results. Some have found that moderate alcohol consumption might be protective against heart disease however there has been skepticism around their methodological robustness.
Failure to differentiate between types of drinkers and types of heart disease is one common issue. Researchers looked at the association between alcohol consumption, disaggregated into different categories of consumption, and different types of heart disease.
In this study, alcohol consumption was classified into five categories: non-drinker, former drinker, occasional drinker, current moderate drinker and heavy drinker. The primary outcome was receiving a diagnosis of one of the 12 most common manifestations of heart disease.
The results showed considerable differences between the types of drinkers and the type of initial heart disease presentation.
Compared with moderate drinkers, the top two diagnoses of heart disease that non-drinkers had increased risk of developing were unstable angina and heart attack.
For heavy drinkers, former drinkers and occasional drinkers these were, respectively, unheralded coronary death and heart failure, unstable angina and heart attack.
The results of this study support the need for a more nuanced approach to alcohol consumption advice when it comes to heart disease prevention.
It’s important to consider how much you drink, and your consumption patterns over time when considering heart health outcomes.
Last Reviewed: 15/01/2020
© Norman Swan Medical Communications.
Bell, S et al. (2017). Association between clinically recorded alcohol consumption and initial presentation of 12 cardiovascular disease: population based cohort study using linked health records. BMJ; 356: j909 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j909.