Study links alcohol consumption to risk of heart failure

 A Russian River Brewing Company customer takes a sip of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer on February 7, 2014 in Santa Rosa, California.
SANTA ROSA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: A Russian River Brewing Company customer takes a sip of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer on February 7, 2014 in Santa Rosa, California. Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A recent study done in Dublin, Ireland showed that alcohol consumption is linked closer to heart failure than previously thought.

The study was presented at Heart Failure 2022, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology, according to ScienceDaily.

"This study adds to the body of evidence that a more cautious approach to alcohol consumption is needed," study author Dr. Bethany Wong of St. Vincent's University Hospital said. "To minimize the risk of alcohol causing harm to the heart, if you don't drink, don't start. If you do drink, limit your weekly consumption to less than one bottle of wine or less than three-and-a-half 500 ml cans of 4.5% beer."

The study analyzed 744 adults over 40-years-old who are either at risk of developing heart failure due to risk factors or have pre-heart failure. 53% of the group were women and the average age was 66.5 years. It did not include heart failure patients with symptoms or former drinkers.

It based the definition of one standard drink to the normal amount in Ireland -- 10 grams of alcohol -- and then had the participants say how many drinks they have per week on average.

"Participants were categorised according to their weekly alcohol intake: 1) none; 2) low (less than seven units; up to one 750 ml bottle of 12.5% wine or three-and-a-half 500 ml cans of 4.5% beer); 3) moderate (7-14 units; up to two bottles of 12.5% wine or seven 500 mL cans of 4.5% beer); 4) high (above 14 units; more than two bottles of 12.5% wine or seven 500 ml cans of 4.5% beer)," according to ScienceDaily.

27% of the participants (201) said that they don't consume alcohol, while 48% (356) claimed to be low users, and 25% (187) had a moderate or high intake. The study showed that the moderate or high users were younger, had a higher body mass index, and were more likely to be male.

The researchers looked at the association of alcohol consumption and heart health over a median of 5.4 years. Those participants in the pre-heart failure group that said they were a moderate or high intake drinker had a "4.5-fold increased risk of worsening heart health."

The at-risk group did not have an association between moderate or high alcohol consumption leading to heart failure.

"Our study suggests that drinking more than 70 g of alcohol per week is associated with worsening pre-heart failure or progression to symptomatic heart failure in Europeans," Dr. Wong said. "We did not observe any benefits of low alcohol usage. Our results indicate that countries should advocate lower limits of safe alcohol intake in pre-heart failure patients.

"In Ireland, for example, those at risk of heart failure or with pre-heart failure are advised to restrict weekly alcohol intake to 11 units for women and 17 units for men. This limit for men is more than twice the amount we found to be safe. More research is needed in Caucasian populations to align results and reduce the mixed messages that clinicians, patients and the public are currently getting."

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