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Alcohol and Heart Health: A Dangerous Mix

Alcohol and Heart Health: A Dangerous Mix

When it comes to alcohol, one glass is never enough. It can be a dangerous combination when it comes to heart health. One in three adults die from a heat-related illness, and the risk of death increases with how much alcohol we drink.

While many people believe that moderate alcohol consumption is good for cardiovascular health, the World Heart Federation (WHF) says that data cannot back up this belief in a new policy brief.

The evidence is clear that any level of drinking can lead to the loss of a healthy life. “Over the past several decades, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease has nearly doubled, and alcohol has played a major role in the incidence of much of it,” the WHF said in the policy.

The portrayal of alcohol as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from the harms of alcohol use, as have the frequent and widely publicized claims that moderate drinking, such as a glass of red wine a day, can offer protection against cardiovascular disease,” Monika Arora, member of the WHF advocacy committee and co-author of the brief, expressed in a Press Release.

These claims are at best misinformed and at worst an attempt by the alcohol industry to mislead the public about the danger of their product,” Arora added.

The WHF findings follow a 2018 report in the Lancet based on the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), where they discovered that there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption.

According to the Lancet, one in three people drink alcohol globally (equivalent to 2.4 billion people), and 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems each year.

The WHF commented that even a tiny amount of alcohol has been shown to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The organization writes that studies that claim otherwise are primarily based on observational research, which fails to account for relevant cofactors.

Based on their overview of the evidence to date, there is no reliable connection that shows moderate alcohol use could lower the risk of heart disease.

The WHF continued by saying that alcohol use is also a “major avoidable risk factor” for: 

  • cancer
  • digestive diseases 
  • intentional 
  • unintentional injuries
  • several infectious diseases

Alcohol use also has a high economic and social burden, including costs to individuals and health systems, productivity losses, increased violence, homelessness, and criminal activity.

The WHF calls for “urgent and decisive action” to fight the unusual rise in alcohol-related death and disability worldwide.

Their recommendations include:

  • Boosting restrictions on alcohol availability.
  • Advancing and enforcing drinking and driving countermeasures.
  • Increasing access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment for alcohol use disorder.
  • Enforcing bans on alcohol advertising.
  • Establishing a uniform minimum legal drinking age.
  • Mandating health warnings on alcohol products.