The negative effects of alcohol abuse are similar to that of traditional cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and smoking, based on a recent study that found alcohol abuse more than doubles risk for heart disease.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study analyzed data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database, which collects hospital data to help inform health care delivery and outcomes. The database included more than 14.7 million patients that received health care in a surgery, emergency or hospital setting in California between 2005 and 2009.
Among all patients, 2% had a documented history of alcohol abuse. After tracking patients for up to 4 years, researchers found that alcohol abuse was associated with significantly increased risk for heart disease.
Patients with alcohol abuse had more than two times greater risk for heart failure and an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation than those without. Patients with alcohol abuse also had 45% greater risk for heart attack than those without an alcohol use disorder. Not surprisingly, patients with alcohol abuse and no other cardiovascular risk factors still had significantly increased risk for heart disease. Researchers found that the increased risk associated with alcohol abuse is similar to that of other well-known risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Authors hope that findings will help provide clarity on the relationship between alcohol use and heart health. While some studies have demonstrated cardiovascular benefits from moderate drinking, low-risk drinking is defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Drinking beyond these limits can have a negative impact on health in a variety of ways. As this study shows, alcohol abuse more than doubles risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States, and experts believe that addressing alcohol abuse may offer another way to help reduce cardiovascular risk and improve heart health.