According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), there is a clear link between excessive alcohol consumption and high blood pressure. Over time, this can put a strain on the heart muscle and lead to cardiovascular disease, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Heavy drinkers who drink more than the recommended guidelines have always been advised to cut back or stop drinking completely. But, a new study from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) shows that even drinking at levels some countries consider safe could increase the risk of heart problems.
The researchers say, “This study adds to the body of evidence that a more cautious approach to alcohol consumption is needed. To minimize the risk of alcohol causing harm to the heart, if you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, limit your weekly consumption to less than one bottle of wine or less than three-and-a-half 500 ml cans of 4.5% beer.”
What is considered heavy drinking?
The guidance on how much alcohol is safe to drink varies between countries. The BHF says that to avoid health risks, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and this should be spread evenly over 3 days or more.
According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, men should drink less than 2 drinks a day, and women should drink a maximum of 1 drink a day.
the NIAAA defines “heavy drinking” as, for men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week, and for women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week.
The WHO says that “at a societal level, the European Union is the heaviest-drinking region in the world, with over one-fifth of the European population aged 15 years and above reporting heavy episodic drinking (five or more drinks on an occasion, or 60g alcohol) at least once a week.
Heavy episodic drinking is widespread across all ages and all of Europe, and not only among young people or those from northern Europe.”
Does drinking a lot of alcohol affect your heart?
For the ESC study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 800 adults aged over 40 who were at a high risk of developing heart failure or already had a pre-heart failure.
To determine how alcohol affected heart health, they were split into two groups depending on how much they drank each week. Approximately half were considered light drinkers, consuming less than 10 grams of alcohol, or one bottle of wine, per week.
A quarter of the group drank moderate or high amounts of alcohol, which was anywhere from 70 grams to more than 140 grams of alcohol per week. The researchers found that those in this group had a higher risk of heart failure.
The researchers noted, “Our study suggests that drinking more than 70 g of alcohol per week is associated with worsening pre-heart failure or progression to symptomatic heart failure in Europeans.
We did not observe any benefits of low alcohol usage. More research is needed in Caucasian populations to align results and reduce the mixed messages that clinicians, patients, and the public are currently getting.”
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