Consuming Over One Alcoholic Drink Daily Raises Heart Disease Risk in Women

Consuming Over One Alcoholic Drink Daily Raises Heart Disease Risk in Women
01.04.2024

Young to middle-aged women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day, on average, were more likely to develop coronary heart disease than people who drink less, according to new research by Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Women in the study who reported drinking eight or more alcoholic beverages per week were 33 to 51 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease. And women who binge drink— three alcoholic beverages per day — were 68 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who drink in moderation, the research showed.

“There has been an increasing prevalence of alcohol use among young and middle-aged women as women may feel they’re protected against heart disease until they’re older, but this study shows that even in that age group, women who drink more than the recommended amount of one drink per day or tend to binge drink, are at risk for coronary heart disease,” Jamal Rana, a cardiologist with the Permanente Medical Group and the study’s lead author, wrote in an email.

The study will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in early April. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Risk is highest for binge drinking

The study used data from 432,265 adults, ages 18 to 65, who received care in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California integrated health organization. The group was composed of about 243,000 men and 189,000 women who filled out routine assessments between 2014 and 2015 in which they reported their alcohol intake. Researchers then looked at the coronary heart disease diagnoses among participants over the four years that followed.

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Participants were divided into three groups, according to their alcohol intake: low (one to two drinks per week), moderate (three to 14 drinks per week for men and three to seven drinks per week for women), or high (15 or more drinks per week for men and eight or more drinks per week for women).

Participants were also categorized as either engaging in binge drinking or not, with binge drinking being defined for men as having more than four drinks in a single day and for women as having more than three drinks a day, in the prior three months. Those who reported no alcohol use were not included.

During the four-year follow-up period, 3,108 participants were diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Higher levels of alcohol consumption were associated with a higher incidence of coronary heart disease. Both men and women who reported heavy episodic drinking, or binge drinking, had the highest risk.

The link between alcohol and coronary heart disease proved to be especially strong among women, the data showed.

Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is the most common type of heart disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease develops when the arteries of the heart are unable to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart because of plaque buildup.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, according to the CDC. Symptoms differ, and often there are none until people suffer from a heart attack or other problem, a NIH report said.

“There has long been this idea that alcohol is good for the heart, but more and more evidence is challenging that notion,” Rana wrote.

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