Health News for Seniors
Drinking any alcohol raises
immediate risk of stroke or heart attack
drinkers may see some protective health benefits within 24
hours, heavy drinking creates extended risk
March 3, 2016 - Drinking
alcohol is associated with an immediate higher risk of suffering
a heart attack or stroke. The risk, however, lessens and can
become protective after 24 hours for moderate drinking, but
remains high for heavy drinking, according to new research.
The study, a systematic
review and dose-response meta-analysis of previous research, was
presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and
Prevention/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions. It will also be
published in the American Heart Association’s journal
“There appears to be a
transiently higher risk of heart attack and strokes in the
hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage but within a day
after drinking, only heavy alcohol intake seems to pose a
higher cardiovascular risk,” said Elizabeth Mostofsky,
Sc.D., study lead author, instructor at the Harvard T.H.
Chan School of Public Health and post-doctoral fellow at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston,
Previous research has
described cardiovascular risks following moderate and heavy
alcohol consumption, but the immediate risks have not been well
“Ours is the first to
synthesize all the available information to gain new knowledge
on the acute risk of heart attacks and strokes in the hours
after drinking and the risk in the following week for different
amounts of alcohol consumed,” Mostofsky said.
evidence on the risk of
in the hours and days after drinking alcohol from 23 studies
that included nearly 30,000 participants.
alcohol intake, there are both harmful and protective physical
responses. Within one to three hours, a single dose of alcohol
increases heart rate and disrupts the heart’s normal pacing but
by 24 hours, moderate alcohol intake improves blood flow, blood
vessels’ lining function and reduces clotting.
Moderate drinking – up to
six drinks a week in this study – was associated with an
immediately higher cardiovascular risk but within a day was
considered protective and associated with a lower risk of a
having heart attack or stroke from bleeds and within the week
was associated with a lower risk of strokes from clots.
However, heavy alcohol use
was associated with higher heart attack and stroke risks at all
times studied: six to nine drinks in a day nearly doubled the
risk and 19 to 30 drinks in a week elevated the risk by up to
six times more.
Heavy drinking is typically
described for men as consuming 15 or more drinks per week and
more than 8 drinks per week for women. According to the 2015
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1
drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
“Just after drinking, blood
pressure rises and blood platelets become stickier, increasing
the risk of heart attacks and strokes,” Mostofsky said.
“However, regularly drinking small amounts of alcohol in the
long term appears to both increase levels of HDL cholesterol
(high density lipoprotein cholesterol), the so-called good
cholesterol, and reduce the tendency to form blood clots.”
Aging for Senior Citizens
Adults of any age can have problems with
alcohol. In general, older adults don't
drink as much as younger people, but they
can still have trouble with drinking. As
people get older, their bodies change. They
can develop health problems or chronic
diseases. They may take more medications
than they used to. All of these changes can
make alcohol use a problem for older adults.
Senior Health by the National
Institutes of Health
“If you drink alcohol, do
so in moderation,” she said.
American Heart Association
recommends consuming alcohol in
moderation if you already drink but cautions people to not start
drinking and consult your doctor on your risks and benefits of
consuming alcohol in moderation.
Co-authors are Harpeet
Chahal, B.M.Sc.; Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., M.P.H.; Eric Rimm,
Sc.D.; and Murray Mittleman, M.D., Dr.PH. Author disclosures and
funding information are on the manuscript.
Alcohol and Heart Health by American Heart Association