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Heavy drinking can prematurely age arteries

Heavy alcohol drinking habits over the years may prematurely age arteries, especially in men, putting them at an increased risk for heart disease, according to Univesity College London research.

Drinking too much, can affect the elasticity of the arterial walls (arterial stiffness) and prematurely age the arteries, interfering with blood flow. Moreover, researchers found that male former drinkers were at risk for accelerated rates of arterial stiffness compared with moderate drinkers who were in early old age. This observation was not found in females, although the study of 3,869 participants was 73% male.

The findings, which looked at alcohol drinking habits over a 25-year period, support previous research on moderate alcohol consumption and its association with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. The question is how much alcohol is too much and at what point does alcohol start to cause damage to the arteries?

Participants ranged in age at the initial alcohol assessment from their 30s to their 50s, with statistical adjustment made for age (amongst other characteristics) in the study's analyses, and anyone with a history of heart disease were excluded from the study. Few of the participants were current smokers, however 68% of the men and 74% of women failed to meet recommended weekly exercise guidelines. Among both men and women, one in 10 had Type 2 diabetes. Men were more likely to be heavy drinkers compared with women; however, there were twice as many stable non-drinkers and former drinkers among the women than the men.

Researchers compared data about participants' alcohol consumption with carotid-femoral pulse wave artery velocity (PWV) measurements, or pulse waves between the main arteries found in the neck and thigh. The greater the velocity, the stiffer the artery. Alcohol intake was measured periodically across 25 years and the researchers subsequently looked at how those long-term intake patterns were associated with pulse wave velocity and its progression over a 4-to-5-year interval.

Consistent long-term, heavy drinking was defined in this UK study as more than 112 grams (3.9 ounces) of ethanol per week (roughly equivalent to one serving of alcoholic spirit, half a pint of beer, or half a glass of wine.); consistent moderate drinking was 1-112 grams of ethanol per week.

The American Heart Association defines moderate alcohol consumption as an average of one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk for alcohol dependency, cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and obesity, stroke, certain types of cancer, suicide and accidents.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, contributing to nearly one-third of deaths, researchers said. How alcohol may impact arterial health is unclear, said Dr Darragh O'Neill, lead study author and epidemiological researcher at University College London. "It's been suggested alcohol intake may increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels – the good cholesterol – or decrease platelet stickiness. Conversely, heavier alcohol intake may activate certain enzymes that would lead to collagen accumulation, which could, in turn exacerbate the rate of arterial stiffening."

"Based on these findings, the research team wants to look at multiple groups of people – since this study was limited to a single group that was mostly male – and identify the relationship that drinking patterns over time have with other indicators of cardiovascular disease." O'Neill said.

Abstract
Background: Emerging evidence suggests that arterial stiffness, an important marker of cardiovascular health, is associated with alcohol consumption. However, the role of longer‐term consumption patterns in the progression of arterial stiffness over time remains unclear. A longitudinal cohort design was used to evaluate the association between alcohol consumption over 25 years and subsequent changes in arterial stiffness.
Methods and Results: Data (N=3869; 73% male) were drawn from the Whitehall II cohort study of British civil servants, in which participants completed repeat pulse wave velocity assessments of arterial stiffness across a 4‐ to 5‐year interval. Repeated alcohol intake measurements were used to categorize participants into alcohol consumer types, accounting for longitudinal variability in consumption. Sex‐stratified linear mixed‐effects modeling was used to investigate whether drinker types differed in their relationship to pulse wave velocity and its progression over time. Males with consistent long‐term heavy intake >112 g of ethanol/week had significantly higher baseline pulse wave velocity (b=0.26 m/s; P=0.045) than those who drank consistently moderately (1–112 g of ethanol/week). Male former drinkers showed significantly greater increases in arterial stiffness longitudinally compared to consistently moderate drinkers (b=0.11 m/s; P=0.009). All associations were nonsignificant for females after adjustment for body mass index, heart rate, mean arterial pressure, diabetes mellitus, high‐density lipoprotein, and triglycerides.
Conclusions: This work demonstrates that consistently heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher cardiovascular risk, especially among males, and also provides new insights into the potential impact of changes in drinking levels over time. It discusses the additional insights possible when capturing longitudinal consumption patterns in lieu of reliance on recent intake alone.

Authors
Darragh O'Neill, Annie Britton, Eric J Brunner, Steven Bell

[link url="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170220190648.htm"]American Heart Association material[/link]
[link url="http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/6/2/e005288"]Journal of the American Heart Association abstract[/link]

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