The medical community has been plagued with a few studies conducted years ago that stated that alcohol in moderation was good for the heart. Thousands of news outlets, blogs, and magazines reported on these studies and people have been referencing it ever since. And while a headline stating that alcohol is good for you is likely to get more readers, it is not exactly true. While alcohol, especially red wine, has some properties that could be considered healthy for the heart in low doses, these benefits do not even begin to outweigh the negative side effects of even moderate alcohol consumption.
A new study appearing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that in addition to a myriad of other health complications, alcohol consumption can lead to atrial fibrillation, heart attacks and congestive heart failure. In fact, alcohol use can influence these factors so greatly that even in people who have no other risk factors but alcohol consumption, they are more likely to develop these cardiac problems.
One of the major problems with previous studies was the way the researchers obtained their data.
“The great majority of previous research relied exclusively on self-reports of alcohol abuse. That can be an unreliable measure, especially in those who drink heavily. In our study, alcohol abuse was documented in patients’ medical records,” explained Dr. Gregory Marcus, lead researcher of the study. Focusing more on a clinical diagnosis, rather than what the subject was willing to admit to, has allowed for a more thorough research study.
It is important to note that alcohol does not directly cause heart attacks, atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure, but it does increase the chances that these problems will occur. According to researchers, alcohol influences the odds of these heart conditions in the same way as diabetes and obesity influences the odds.
Researchers are hopeful that this new study will replace popular opinion that alcohol in moderation is good for you. Now that current research is relying more on medical records, rather than self-reporting, it is likely that more studies will come to the same conclusion – alcohol consumption is not a healthy option when it comes to the heart. Now that we’re in the new year, maybe it’s time for even those who don’t have substance abuse issues to re-examine their drinking habits.