Alcohol Linked to Heart Damage in Older Adults
A new study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging suggests that regular drinking may cause heart damage in older adults. The research also suggests that the level of damage increases as alcohol consumption increases.
The research team from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied health data for 4.466 men and women who were already participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. The participants had an average age of 76, and for this study were split into four groups: non-drinkers; drinking less than 7 drinks a week; drinking seven to 14 drinks a week, and drinking more than 14 drinks a week.
The research team monitored heart size, as well as recorded heart structure and function level by using echocardiograms. They discovered that for men and women, as the alcohol level increased, so did the size of the left ventricle of the heart. This is the main part of the heart responsible for pumping blood to the body. They found the most dramatic results in men averaging more than 14 drinks a week. For women consuming one drink a day, they also noticed that in addition to an increase in left ventricle size, more alcohol reduced the left ventricle’s ability to pump blood, making the heart work harder. This ability further deteriorated as the amount of drinking increased.
The team says their results indicate that increasing alcohol intake in the elderly is associated with poorer heart structure and function, with elderly women at high susceptibility even with moderate alcohol intake. The researchers said that if a person wants to drink, they should do so only in moderation, particularly if they are older.