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Already small amounts of alcohol damage the heart function of women
"Nobody can refuse a glass," is an old saying. In general, some studies suggest that moderate wine consumption can be good for your health. But a study by scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston comes to a different conclusion. Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to heart damage in older people and especially women.
Moderate alcohol consumption can damage the heart of the elderly, with a particularly negative effect on female heart function, the BWH reports. In their current study, the researchers led by Dr. Alexandra Goncalves examined the alcohol consumption and cardiac function of over 4,400 adults with an average age of 76 years. They used echocardiography to determine the size, structure and movement of the different parts of the heart. With their help, they find that women showed a slight decrease in heart function from the consumption of one alcoholic drink per day. Men who had consumed more than two drinks a day were more likely to experience impairments of the left ventricular wall.
Current results contradict previous studies
"In an aging population, increasing alcohol consumption is associated with subtle changes in heart structure and function, making women more susceptible than men to the toxic effects of alcohol," says lead researcher Dr. Alexandra Goncalves. Women show impaired cardiac function as early as the day after drinking a drink (a large beer, a glass of wine or a shot glass of high-proof alcohol). In several previous studies, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced risk of stroke or heart attack, but the current results contradict this statement - especially among women. The study was published in the journal "Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging".
Impending heart disease even with small amounts of alcohol
Even if alcohol consumption is very low, there might actually be benefits for cardiac function, but the amount from which an opposite effect occurs remains open, according to the study author Goncalves. In addition, women are more sensitive than men regarding the toxic effects of alcohol on heart function. "Compared to men, women could develop alcohol-related heart diseases by drinking a lot of small amounts of alcohol," reports the researcher. The current results would underline the possible dangers to heart structure and function from alcohol consumption in the elderly and especially in women.
Moderate alcohol consumption also a health risk?
In any case, institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Heart Association advocate strictly limited alcohol consumption in order to avoid possible negative consequences. For example, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than one or two drinks a day and women should treat themselves to a maximum of one drink a day. The WHO recommends comparably low maximum limits. However, according to the latest study results, even these amounts could still be set too high. Overall, according to the WHO, the negative health effects of alcohol consumption are a major problem worldwide. In 2012, around 3.3 million deaths or 5.9 percent of all deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption. (fp)