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Excess Drinking Boosts Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Date:5/14/2008

Especially for women, heavy consumption tied to arterial stiffening, enlarged hearts

WEDNESDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- While research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may have health benefits, heavy drinking increases blood pressure, stiffens blood vessels and causes more rigid heart muscles in men and enlarged hearts in women -- all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a new study warns.

Men who drink more than 21 units of alcohol per week and women who drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week put themselves at serious risk for hypertensive heart disease, heart failure and stroke, the researchers found.

"These shocking findings illustrate the extreme risks that heavy drinkers are exposing themselves to -- some of which are particularly pronounced in women," lead investigator Dr. Azra Mahmud, a cardiovascular lecturer and hypertension specialist at the Trinity Centre for Health Science, St. James Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, said in a prepared statement.

"We want to make sure people aren't getting mixed messages about alcohol. The potentially fatal effects of heavy drinking may more than counteract the well-documented benefits of sensible alcohol intake," Mahmud said.

The study included 100 women and 100 men (mean age 46, all healthy) who were divided into three groups: non-drinkers, moderate drinkers (males, less than 21 units of alcohol per week; females, less than 14 units per week) and heavy drinkers (males, more than 21 units per week; females, more than 14 units per week).

The participants underwent a number of tests including ultrasound of heart to assess arterial stiffness and pulse wave velocity to measure aortic blood pressures and wave reflections in the aorta.

The results showed that heavy drinking is associated with arterial stiffening and impaired left ventricular (LV) relaxation in males, and LV structural changes, including LV enlargement (hypertrophy)
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