For years studies have given us conflicting evidence based around our regular consumption of alcohol. Whether we enjoy a glass of red with dinner, or splash out on a nightcap to ease the troubles of the day, studies have regularly concluded that moderate drinking can indeed protect you from heart attacks by keeping your vessels clear.
However, new data suggests that alcohol consumption can begin to slowly poison the heart. So how do we know what to believe and where to draw the line?
Scientists led by Dr. Scott Solomon – professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have released a report outlining these possible new guidelines.
Published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, researches have collected data from 4,466 elderly participants, about their levels of alcohol consumption.
Through frequent echocardiograms of their hearts, the doctors were able to ascertain how much alcohol, was having an effect on their heart structure.
Results in the male participants revealed that the more they drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. Within the male results, the changes began to happen after just two drinks a day, or 14 drinks a week.
The changes, included a slight increase in the pumping chambers of their hearts, compared to non-drinkers, which can cause the heart to enlarge and weaken over time.
For women, these same changes appeared after as little as one drink a day.
“Once you get beyond two drinks a day in men, you get into the realm where you start to see subtle evidence of cardiotoxic effects on the heart that might over the long term, lead to problems. And that threshold might be lower in women.” said Solomon
Future research will be conducted into the cumulative effects of alcohol consumption over time. At present, the study was only conducted in participants where the average age was 76, which could indicate the results reflect decades of alcohol exposure.
“What is clear is that at more than two drinks a day is the point at which we start to think we are beyond the safe level for men, and with women, it’s likely to be even lower than that,” says Solomon.