News | January 30, 2007

HF Risk Lower in Moderate Drinkers, Says 23-Year Study

Jan. 31, 2007 — Physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have published study results in “Circulation” that link moderate alcohol consumption with reduced risk of heart failure (HF).

The study, conducted by Luc Djoussé, M.D., MPH, DSc and J. Michael Gaziano, M.D., MPH, included 21,601 participants of the Physicians’ Health Study I who were free of HF and provided data on alcohol intake at baseline — they were prospectively followed up from 1982 to 2005. Incident HF cases were ascertained through annual follow-up questionnaires and validated with the use of Framingham criteria. During an average follow-up of 18.4 years, 904 incident cases of HF occurred. The crude incidence rates of HF were 25.0, 20.0, 24.3, and 20.6 cases per 10,000 person-years for alcohol categories of 7 drinks per week, respectively.

Corresponding hazard ratios (95 percent CI) were 1.0 (reference), 0.90 (0.76 to 1.07), 0.84 (0.71 to 0.99), and 0.62 (0.41 to 0.96), respectively, with P for trend=0.012 adjusted for age, body mass index, smoking, and history of valvular heart disease. There was no evidence for a strong association between moderate alcohol consumption and HF without antecedent coronary artery disease.

The researchers concluded that while heavy drinking should be discouraged, our data indicate that moderate drinking may lower the risk of HF. The lack of an association between moderate alcohol intake and HF without antecedent coronary artery disease suggests that possible benefits of moderate drinking on HF may be mediated through beneficial effects of alcohol on coronary artery disease.