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Alcohol's Impact on Heart, Stroke Risk Differs by Gender

THURSDAY July 10, 2008 -- Whether drinking alcohol helps or hurts your chances of avoiding heart disease and stroke may depend on your gender as well as how much you imbibe, a new study finds.

The report, which appears online July 11 in the journal Stroke, looked at the drinking habits and lifestyles of more than 80,000 Japanese men and women over a 14-year period. None had previously experienced cancer, stroke or heart disease prior to the study.

Among the findings:

  • Men who drank heavily (at least 46 grams of alcohol -- roughly four or more standard alcoholic beverages a day) had a 19 percent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease than non-drinking men. However, these heavy drinkers also had a 48 percent increased risk of death from all types of stroke.
  • Women who drank heavily quadrupled their risk of heart disease death compared with women who didn't drink. Women who drank heavily had a 92 percent higher risk of death from stroke.
  • Among women, light drinking (less than 23 grams of alcohol or about two drinks a day) was associated with a 17 percent lower risk of death by heart disease death, but moderate drinking (between 23 grams and 46 grams per day) was linked to an increased risk of 45 percent. Prior studies had suggested that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption might be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

"An amount of alcohol that may be beneficial for men is not good for women at all," study co-author Dr. Hiroyasu Iso, a professor of public health at Osaka University in Japan, said in an American Heart Association news release.

Iso noted that one limitation of the study is that the Japanese culture has social restrictions against women drinking as they get older, so the women who drank in the study may have had other factors that affected their heart disease and stroke risk.

More information

The American Stroke Association has more about alcohol and cardiovascular health.

Posted: July 2008


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