In the Journals

Long-term heavy alcohol consumption linked to arterial stiffness in men

Consistent heavy alcohol consumption may prematurely age arteries, especially in men, according to findings in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Research has suggested that moderate levels of alcohol consumption are associated with lower risk [for CVD] onset,” Darragh O’Neill, PhD, of the research department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, and colleagues wrote. “The mechanisms underlying this association are not fully understood nor the impact of changes in drinking levels over time. There is a need to further examine how alcohol consumption can impact [CV] functioning and risk.”

Participants consisted of British civil servants (n = 3,869; 73.7% men) who completed carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity assessments to evaluate arterial stiffness at 4- to 5-year intervals over 25 years. Arterial stiffness has been proposed as a surrogate endpoint for studies of CVD.

Long-term heavy drinking was defined as > 112 g ethanol per week (approximately one serving of spirits, half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine) and consistent moderate drinking was 1 g to 112 g ethanol per week.

Men with consistent long-term heavy drinking had a higher baseline pulse wave velocity (beta = 0.26 m/s; 95% CI, 0.01-0.52; P = .045) than those who drank in moderation consistently. Men who were former drinkers had greater increases in arterial stiffness (beta = 0.11 m/s; 95% CI, 0.03-0.19; P = .009) compared with consistently moderate drinkers.

After multivariable adjustment, all associations were nonsignificant for women, the researchers wrote.

“The finding that male stable heavy drinkers had higher baseline [pulse wave velocity] than stable moderate consumers is consistent with existing research and with the concept of a threshold effect for alcohol’s impact on [CV] health,” they wrote. “Compared to heavier volumes, moderate intake is known to be associated with higher [HDL], a protective factor against arterial stiffening.” – by Cassie Homer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.