“In an elderly population, increasing alcohol intake is associated with subtle alterations in heart structure and function, with women appear more susceptible than men to the toxic effects of alcohol.”
~Dr. Alexandra Goncalves, postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and lead author of the “Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities” study.
Contrary to past reports that small amounts of alcohol taken daily might be beneficial to your health, a new study suggests that moderate drinking might actually harm your heart if you are a senior citizen.
In a study that involved 4446 senior citizen participants (average age 76 years), investigators found that even drinking in moderation could negatively impact a person’s cardiac health. More than half of the participants said they “never drink”.
An electrocardiograph machine was used to assess various parts of the heart for motion, structure, and size.
Women who had just one drink a day experienced reduced heart function. This would qualify as “moderate drinking”.
Men who had more than 14 drinks a week saw enlargement of the left ventricle wall of the heart – the pumping chamber of the heart. This would qualify as “heavy drinking”.
For the purposes of this study, a drink would be defined as –
- one 12-ounce beer
- 4 ounces of wine
- 1 to 1.5 ounces of spirits, depending upon the proof
For years, the American Heart Association has recommended that alcohol be consumed only in moderation – one or two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. Prior research seemed to indicate that light-to-moderate daily consumption of alcohol could help reduce the risk of heart failure.
At the same time, the AHA has always advised against starting to drink alcohol to improve health.
An earlier Swedish study found that middle-aged adults (50’s-60’s) who drink heavily have a stroke risk that is 34% higher than lighter drinkers, meaning that they are more apt to have a stroke five years earlier, without regard to their genetic makeup or their overall health and lifestyle choices.
The Swedish study’s findings demonstrates that heavy drinking may be more dangerous than “traditional” health hazards such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Gonclaves added, “Our findings highlight the possible hazards to cardiac structure and function by increased amounts of alcohol consumption in the elderly, particularly among women.”
“…women may be more sensitive than men to the toxic effects of alcohol on heart function. Compared with men, women may develop alcoholic-related heart disease by drinking a lot less alcohol over their lives.”
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