Moderate drinking can lower the risk of several, but not all, cardiovascular diseases say researchers who claim to have figured out exactly which heart conditions ‘sensible’ levels of drinking can help to protect against.
Published in the BMJ the analysis of 1.93 million people in the UK is the first to investigate the effect of alcohol on 12 different cardiovascular diseases.
It found that moderate drinkers – defined as consuming no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for women and 21 units for men – were less likely to present at first diagnosis with angina, myocardial infarction, heart failure, ischaemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and abdominal aortic aneurysm compared with non drinkers.
Meanwhile heavy drinking –alcohol consumption above the moderate range – increased the risk of developing coronary death, heart failure, and peripheral arterial disease compared with moderate drinking, but carried a lower risk of heart attack and angina.
The authors were quick to point out that this did not mean heavy drinkers were less likely to experience those conditions in the future – they were just less likely to present with these at first diagnosis, compared with moderate drinkers.
According to the investigators, the study is also the first to show that both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers are more likely than moderate drinkers to present with coronary death with no previous symptomatic presentations.
The researchers say they hope their findings will help doctors deliver a more nuanced and personalised approach to counselling patients about the role of alcohol consumption in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
“If a patient reports heavy drinking they can be informed that if they continue to do so they have an increased risk of initial presentation with ischaemic stroke, heart failure, cardiac arrest, transient ischaemic attack, intracerebral haemorrhage, or peripheral arterial disease, as well as coronary death with no previous symptoms,” they said.