Moderate alcohol drinking and atherosclerosis are associated in the general population. Specifically, moderate consumption reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. The condition is also called atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and arteriosclerosis. But most non-medical people call it hardening of arteries
I. Atherosclerosis is Serious
I. Atherosclerosis is Serious
Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Those are the vessels through which blood from the heart flows throughout the body. When arteries become narrow, they reduce blood flow. And when they become blocked, they cause serious problems or death. For a good video animation of the disease, visit Watch, Learn, Live. It’s very informative.
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease. This includes heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. And cardiovascular diseases are the biggest cause of deaths around the world.
The following risk factors increase the chances of serious atherosclerosis.
- High cholesterol.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Not exercising regularly.
- Having diabetes.
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
- Abdominal obesity (too much fat around the waist).
- Too much stress.
- Not drinking in moderation. That is, either abstaining or drinking heavily.
These factors cause over 90% of all heart attacks. They also cause a large proportion of strokes, peripheral artery disease, and other medical problems. So atherosclerosis is very serious health problem
II. The Study
Researchers wanted to see if drinking and atherosclerosis are also associated in HIV+ persons. To do so, they analyzed data from 483 HIV+ participants of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. They also analyzed data from 305 HIV+ participants in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study. Atherosclerosis was assessed by carotid artery ultrasound imaging in 2004 and again in 2013.
Investigators categorized the participants into ten-year drinking patterns. Those patterns were abstinent/low, moderate, and heavy. Next, they compared the association of long-term moderate and of heavy use on atherosclerosis to that of abstinent/low drinking.
Heavy alcohol consumption was not associated with risk of developing atherosclerosis. That was true for both men and women in comparison with abstinent/low consumption.
Drinkers Live Longer. Why Does Drinking Increase Length of Life?
Moderate consumption was associated with 54% lower risk for developing the disease in men. But it didn’t reduce it in women. Again, that’s in comparison with abstinent/low drinking.
The researchers concluded that moderate drinking was associated with a dramatic protective effect on developing atherosclerosis in HIV+ men.
Study Reported. Kelso-Chichetto NE, Plankey M, Sheps DS, Abraham AG, Chen X, Shoptaw S, Kaplan RC, Post WS, Cook RL. The impact of long-term moderate and heavy alcohol consumption on incident atherosclerosis among persons living with HIV. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Dec 1;181:235-241. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.09.034. Epub 2017 Oct 28.
III. Resources on Drinking and Atherosclerosis
American Heart Ass’n. Atherosclerosis. (website)
_______. Your Heart. An Owner’s Manual. NY: Pocket Books, 2011.
FDA. Heart Health for Women. (website)