7:49, 03.Jan 2017
Problem drinking can increase a person's chances of heart attack and heart failure, a new study has shown.
Previous studies appeared to find that moderate drinking could be good for the heart, but the new research suggests that intake can be deadly.
The NHS estimates that around two million people in England are harmful drinkers, defined as men who drink more than 50 units per week (22 pints) or 35 units for women (three and a half bottles of wine.)
But although it was known that heavy drinking damages the liver, raises high blood pressure, and triggers cancer, there had never been any direct link to heart attack and heart failure.
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco analysed data from 15 million patients who attended hospital between 2004 and 2009, 286,000 of whom had been diagnosed with alcohol abuse.
The found that heavy drinking doubled the chance of suffering an irregular heartbeat, raised the risk of a heart attack by 40 per cent and more than doubled the risk of heart failure.
“We were somewhat surprised to find those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher risk of a heart attack,” said lead researcher Dr Gregory Marcus, from the University of California.
"We found that even if you have no underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these heart conditions.
"We hope this data will temper the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These data pretty clearly prove the opposite."
Charities said that the findings were yet more evidence of the deadly impact of too much alcohol.
Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund, said: "This adds to the evidence that any health benefit people think alcohol may have is outweighed by its dangerous effects.
"For example, when it comes to cancer prevention, any amount of alcohol, not just heavy drinking, increases people's risk of developing a number of common cancers including breast and bowel.
“In fact, if no one drank, about 21,000 cancers cases could be prevented every year in the UK."
The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In an accompanying editorial in the journal Dr Michael Criqui, also from the University of California, said that previous studies that have found a benefit from alcohol consumption in protecting against heart attack and congestive heart failure were cohort studies which tend to recruit stable, co-operative and health-conscious participants.
"Cohort studies have minimal participation by true alcohol abusers, so the current study likely presents a more valid picture of heavy drinking outcomes," he said.
Source: The Telegraph