MAY 06, 2020 1:20 PM PDT

Can Alcohol Consumption Increase Your Risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease?

WRITTEN BY: Lawrence Renna

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a chronic disease where plaque builds up in the arteries of the legs. This buildup typically occurs gradually, and if left untreated, blood flow to the legs can be impeded. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, PAD is a fairly common disease, which affects more than 10 million Americans. Although some may not show any symptoms at all, some symptoms include fatigue or cramping of muscles while walking, pain in toes or feet while resting, or open wounds on toes or feet. PAD is more common in those who are 65 years or older. Currently, known risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol triglycerides
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney failure
  • Obesity
  • Genetic factors (not well understood)

In a recent study published in the American Heart Association: Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine, researchers have found that genetically predicted higher consumption of alcohol may be associated with an elevated risk for PAD and stroke. Interestingly, a causal link was not seen for a few other heart diseases, namely heart failure, aortic valve stenosis, or venous thromboembolism.

Susanna C. Larsson, Ph.D., who was the first author of the study, said:

“Our findings show that alcohol consumption increases blood pressure and the risk of stroke, peripheral artery disease, and possibly other cardiovascular diseases.”

The authors of the study used Mendelian randomization to predict the effect of alcohol consumption on eight different cardiovascular diseases. Mendelian randomization analyzes common genetic polymorphisms, which have a well understood biological function, to study the impact of a suspected environmental exposure (i.e., alcohol consumption) on disease risk. Genetic association estimates for cardiovascular diseases were found by five different analysis methods. The researchers of the study found that genetically-predicted alcohol consumption was dependably associated with PAD and stroke across the different types of analysis.

“Considering that alcohol is a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and peripheral artery disease, alcohol consumption should be considered in moderation if at all.” “There is a need for further, even larger studies assessing the causal relationship between alcohol consumption and other cardiovascular diseases than stroke,” said Larsson.

Sources: Society for Vascular Surgery,, Circulation: Genomic and Precision MedicineBiosocial Surveys

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Hello! I am a scientist currently living in Southern California, although I am originally from the east coast. I received my B.S. in Chemistry from Northeastern University in 2012, and my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I also had a postdoctoral appointment at the University of California, Irvine. I have written 25+ peer-reviewed articles, several patents, and one book chapter. I am a reviewer for scientific manuscripts, and a freelance editor and writer. Outside of science, I enjoy spending time with my family, training Jiu-Jitsu, and baking sourdough bread. I am happy to be writing for LabRoots.
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