DALLAS, August 31-- In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that consuming two to six alcoholic drinks per week was associated with a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death in men, according to a report in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
"This is the largest prospective study to look at alcohol consumption and sudden cardiac death in men and the first prospective study to find a reduction in sudden cardiac death from light drinking," says Christine M. Albert, M.D., associate physician in the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Albert is also a cardiac electrophysiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Researchers looked at 21,537 men involved in the Physicians Health Study, a long-term study of male physicians and risk factors for heart disease. All of them were free of cardiovascular disease and provided information on their consumption of alcoholic beverages. During 12 years of follow up, there were 141 cases of sudden cardiac death.
The risk of sudden cardiac death was reduced by 60 percent in men who drank two to four drinks per week, and 79 percent in men who consumed five to six drinks a week, less than one drink per day on average.
About half of all deaths from
coronary heart disease are sudden and unexpected. Sudden cardiac death usually
occurs when the heart begins beating too rapidly or chaotically to pump blood
efficiently. It claims the lives of about 250,000 Americans each year.
Although these findings are considered significant, Albert says they should
alone not be used to generate guidelines on drinking and heart disease. Light
drinkers in this study may have had other health behaviors that lessened their
risk of sudden cardiac death. Researchers did not compare the effects of
drinking patterns, such as consuming small amounts of alcohol daily versus
drinking all of the alcohol in
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association