From an American Heart Association News ReleaseReports vary on the influence of alcohol on heart disease and stroke. A new study from Japan has better defined the differences in alcohol consumption between men and women. Read more about this research. Alcohol consumption as a prevention of heart disease and stroke is not recommended.
The volume of alcohol consumption may have a significantly different effect on heart and stroke risk in men and women, according to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
“An amount of alcohol that may be beneficial for men is not good for women at all,” said Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., co-author of the study and professor of public health at Osaka University in Japan.
Researchers analyzed data from a survey of 34,776 men and 48,906 women (ages 40 to 79) selected from the larger Japan Collaborative Cohort Study (JACC). The survey was used to determine the association of alcohol use with the risks of stroke and heart disease. Participants who had not experienced cancer, stroke, or heart disease before the study completed questionnaires about their lifestyles and medical histories. They also provided information about their drinking of sake (rice wine), shochu (a type of brandy), beer, whiskey, and/or wine.
During a 14.2-year follow-up, 1,628 participants died from stroke and 736 died from heart disease.
Men who reported drinking heavily (at least 46 grams of alcohol per day, equivalent to four or more standard alcoholic beverages) at the time of the survey had a 19 percent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease than nondrinking men.
In stark contrast, women who drank that much quadrupled their risk of heart disease death over that of nondrinking women. Light drinking (less than 23 grams of alcohol per day, about two drinks a day) reported on the survey was associated with a lower risk of heart disease death in women by 17 percent; while heavy intake between 23 and 46 grams per day was associated with an increased risk of 45 percent.
“In women, we found a slightly reduced risk with light consumption but a much greater risk with heavy alcohol use,” Iso said.
In men, heavy alcohol use was associated with
- A 48 percent increased risk of death from all types of stroke.
- A 67 percent increase in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (caused by a blood vessel bursting in the brain).
- A 35 percent increase in the risk of ischemic stroke (caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain or leading to it) was 35 percent higher.
In women, heavy alcohol use was associated with
- A 92 percent higher risk of stroke death.
- A 61 percent increase in risk of hemorrhagic stroke death.
- The risk of ischemic stroke death was increased 2.43 times.
“We expected to find an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke,” Iso said. “But since alcohol reduces the ability of the blood to clot, we didn’t expect to find the increases in ischemic stroke and coronary heart disease.”
Before this study, evidence suggested that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption might be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women. But data on heavy drinking was limited and the question had not been addressed in an Asian country, where both drinking and heart disease are less common.
Researchers calculated the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption after adjusting for age and several other risk factors, including smoking, weight, body mass index, the presence of high blood pressure or diabetes, exercise habits, stress, education and diet.
The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or other forms of alcohol, since there is clear evidence that alcohol use is associated with injury to the heart in many ways. Instead, the association recommends that people talk to their doctor about lowering their cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling weight, getting enough physical activity, and following a healthy diet and quitting smoking. There is no scientific proof that drinking alcoholic beverages can replace these conventional measures.