In one of the longest studies of the cardiac effects of alcohol (the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities or ARIC study), Dr. Alexandra GonÃ§alves of the Brigham and Women s Hospital and colleagues examined data from nearly 15,000 participants. They were followed for 24 years, were about 54 years old, and were 55 percent women.
All of the people involved in ARIC had no symptoms of heart failure (HF) at the beginning of the study. Thus the investigators examined the data for evidence of a link between alcohol consumption and new cases of HF.
Using the definition that one drink contains 14 grams of alcohol, the researchers gathered information on the number of drinks study participants reported consuming per week. They found that 61 percent of participants reported that they were either former drinkers or abstainers. Twenty-five percent said they drank up to 7 drinks per week, eight percent said they drank more than 7 and up to 14 drinks per week, and 3 percent reported more than 14 and up to 21 drinks per week and 3 percent reported over 21 drinks per week.
After analyzing the data, Dr. GonÃ§alves and colleagues reported that, compared to alcohol abstainers, men who consumed up to 7 drinks per week had a significant 20 percent reduced risk of HF. Women in that category of drinkers also had a reduced risk of HF, but only by about 5 percent.
ACSH reported many years ago that moderate alcohol consumption did not cause heart damage, noted ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava, but it s good to see that our findings have been confirmed by this long-term study. She continued, Even at moderate levels of consumption, however, it s crucial that drinkers take reasonable measures to be safe, such as not driving while under the influence of alcohol.