APR 17, 2018 6:15 AM PDT

More Bad News About Booze

There's more news about drinking, how much is too much and what it can do to your body. A study undertaken at Cambridge University in the UK finds that those who drink more than what is recommended in the NHS guidelines have a reduced life expectancy by years and an increased risk of having a stroke, aneurysm or other health complication.

In 2016, health officials in the UK lowered the amounts of alcohol that can be consumed without upping the chances of heart disease or other illnesses related to drinking. While there have been some studies that show a positive health benefit for moderate drinking, the latest work supports the lower limits.

The study was extensive, including data from over 600,000 individuals in 19 countries worldwide. The team was even able to control for confounding factors like smoking, diabetes, education, and occupation. According to the research, the top amount anyone should consider safe came out to about five drinks per week. Breaking it down that's approximately 100g of pure alcohol, five pints of beer with an average 4% ABV, or five small glasses of wine with an average 13% ABV.

The numbers went up significantly however when these limits were exceeded. The research showed that having double the recommended amount per week---ten drinks---cut one's life expectancy by about two years. Kicking that up to 18 drinks per week was an even more dramatic reduction, equaling a lower life expectancy of about four years. Time is everything; getting to live as long as possible is the goal of any healthcare strategy and overdoing it with alcohol has a direct connection to a lowered life expectancy.

While the UK has been on a trend to reduce consumption of alcohol to reduce the healthcare burden, other countries do not have similar policies. Especially as it relates to heart disease, a heavy intake of alcohol can be a significant factor in risk. High blood pressure, fatal strokes, aortic aneurysms, and heart failure are all linked to increased drinking. The only area in which drinking alcohol seemed to have any benefit, was a slightly lower risk of fatal heart attacks; however, this one category did not mitigate the other increased risk.

The authors pointed out that it's well known that alcohol causes blood pressure to rise and it has been shown to increase levels of elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) which while seen as "good cholesterol" still must be monitored. The study wasn't perfect, however. The data about alcohol consumption was self-reported, and much of the information gained was observational instead of clinical findings, but it's still useful as a cautionary tale.

Dr. Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, is the lead author of the work and she explained in a press release, "If you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions. Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious -- and potentially fatal -- cardiovascular diseases." See the video below to learn more about the research.

Sources: University of Cambridge, CNN, The Lancet

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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