alcohol abuse

Alcohol Abuse Linked to Cardiovascular Diseases

A recent study found that alcohol abuse increased the risks of atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure, and disproportionately affects individuals without traditional cardiovascular risks factors.

Researchers used the Healthcare cost and Utilization Project database to collect data on 14,727,591 patients in California, 21 years and older, who received ambulatory surgery, emergency, or in patient medical care between 2005 to 2009. Alcohol abuse was diagnosed in 268,084 of the 14,727,591 patients.
CDC: 1 in 10 Adult Deaths Due To Alcohol Abuse
Long Work Week Increases Risk of Alcohol Abuse by 12%
According to their results, 2.5% of patients diagnosed with alcohol abuse experienced atrial fibrillation, and alcohol abuse was associated with an unadjusted hazard ratio of 1.93. Alcohol abuse had a higher hazard ratio than traditional risk factors for atrial fibrillation, and significantly increased the risks for patients without any risks factors.

Myocardial infarction occurred in 1.1% of patients, and the hazard ratio was calculated as 2.04. The risk of myocardial infarction related to alcohol abuse was equal to that of diabetes and obesity, with more risk associated in individuals without traditional risk factors.

Likewise, the risks for congestive heart failure increased in patients with alcohol abuse, and had a hazard ratio of 2.23. Congestive heart failure occurred in 2.9% of patients, and the risks for those without traditional risk factors and with a preserved systolic function increased 3-fold.

The findings suggest that alcohol abuse is an important predictor for atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure, especially for patients without a given risk factor. The magnitudes for risks were similar to established risks factors for cardiovascular diseases. “Taken together, these data demonstrate that alcohol in excess should not be considered cardioprotective, but rather cardiotoxic, contributing to heightened risk for all 3 major, yet distinct, cardiac adverse outcomes,” the researchers concluded.

—Melissa Weiss


Whitman IR, Agarwal V, Nah G, et al. Alcohol abuse and cardiac disease [published online January 2, 2017]. Journal of American College of Cardiology. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2016.10.048.