A recent study conducted by the scientists of Ireland revealed that levels of alcohol consumption currently considered safe by some countries are linked with the development of heart failure. The findings of the study were published in the journal, ‘Cardiology’ recently.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union is the heaviest-drinking region in the world. Although it is well recognised that long-term heavy alcohol use can cause a type of heart failure known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy, evidence from Asian populations suggests that lower amounts may also be detrimental, as reported by ANI.
“This study adds to the body of evidence that a more cautious approach to alcohol consumption is needed. To minimise 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 percent beer,” said study author Dr. Bethany Wong of St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
Dr. Wong also said that as there are genetic and environmental differences between Asian and European populations this study examined whether there was a similar relationship between alcohol and cardiac changes in Europeans at risk of heart failure or with pre-heart failure.
The study included 744 adults over 40 years of age either at risk of developing heart failure due to risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity) or with pre-heart failure (risk factors and heart abnormalities but no symptoms). According to the scientists, the average age was 66.5 years and 53 percent were women. The study excluded former drinkers and heart failure patients with symptoms. Heart function was measured with echocardiography at baseline and follow-up.
While conducting the study, the scientists used the Irish definition of one standard drink (i.e. one unit), which is 10 grams of alcohol. 8 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 percent wine or three-and-a-half 500 ml cans of 4.5 percent beer); 3) moderate (7-14 units; up to two bottles of 12.5 percent wine or seven 500 mL cans of 4.5 percent beer), high (above 14 units; more than two bottles of 12.5 percent wine or seven 500 ml cans of 4.5 percent beer).
Moreover, the researchers analysed the association between alcohol use and heart health over a median of 5.4 years. The results were reported separately for the at-risk and pre-heart failure groups. The scientists found that in the at-risk group, worsening heart health was defined as progression to pre-heart failure or to symptomatic heart failure. While, for the pre-heart failure group, worsening heart health was defined as deterioration in the squeezing or relaxation functions of the heart or progression to symptomatic heart failure. The analyses were adjusted for factors that can affect heart structure including age, gender, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and vascular disease.
A total of 201 (27 percent) patients reported risk of alcohol while 356 (48 percent) were low users and 187 (25 percent) had moderate or high intake. Compared to the low intake group, those with moderate or high use were younger, more likely to be male, and had a higher body mass index.
Dr Wong said, “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. 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.”
(With inputs from ANI)