Alcohol linked to decreased hypertension risk in young women

Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a reduced risk of developing hypertension in young women, according to researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). The study results, published in the March 11 Archives of Internal Medicine, use data from the Nurses' Health Study II, which is based at BWH.

"For women in their 20s to 40s, we found that alcohol intake at moderate levels was beneficial to blood pressure and at high levels it was harmful," says Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH, of the Renal Unit at MGH and the Channing Laboratory at BWH, the paper's lead author. Thadhani and his colleagues found that the association between alcohol consumption and risk of chronic hypertension in young women follows what is called a J-shaped curve: Light drinkers had a decreased risk compared with nondrinkers, but heavier drinkers had an increased risk.

Thadhani and his team gathered data from over 70,000 women aged 25 to 42 years old at the study's outset in 1989, who did not report having hypertension during the study's early years. After eight years of follow-up, the scientists found that women who drank about two or three drinks a week had a risk of developing hypertension about 15 percent lower than that of nondrinkers. However, women who drank on average more than 10 or 12 drinks per week had a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.

The study also looked at patterns of alcohol consumption. "We found that episodic or binge drinking didn't increase the risk of high blood pressure compared to drinking more regularly," says Thadhani. But he cautions that binge drinking is associated with stroke, cardiovascular disease and trauma.

Thadhani and his colleagues also investigated whether there were any differences in the type of drink consumed. At the higher levels of consumption, all beverages - beer, wine, and liquor - increased blood pressure, whereas there was a suggestion tha

Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

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