Study Finds Moderate Drinking Could Spark Heart Damage In Senior Women

By McCarton Ackerman 05/28/15

Researchers found that senior women are more susceptible to the cardiotoxic effects of alcohol than men.

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The latest in a seemingly endless stream of studies about the health benefits and risks of drinking a glass of wine is veering towards the latter, claiming that even just one small glass of wine per day can cause heart damage in elderly women.

Contrary to other research that suggested consuming low to moderate amounts of alcohol actually had heart health benefits, the new study examined effects of weekly alcohol consumption of 4,466 senior citizens whose age averaged 76. While men who consumed 14 drinks per week were more likely to have small reductions in heart function, those same reductions took place in women who had just one drink per day. This harm also increased when drinking rose from moderate levels to heavy ones.

The findings were published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

“Women appear more susceptible than men to the cardiotoxic effects of alcohol, which might potentially contribute to a higher risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy [disease of the heart muscle] for any given level of alcohol intake,” said Dr. Scott Solomon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also advocated for lower levels of alcohol consumption among senior citizens. They recommend that men drink no more than four units of alcohol per day and women consume no more than three units, but said that should be cut further to 1.5 drinks per day for men and women ages 65 and over.

A study presented in 2012 also found that older adults who drank heavily may be at higher risk for cognitive declines that could ultimately lead to dementia. The participants who binge drank—those who consumed four or more drinks in one sitting—at least twice per month were two and a half times more likely to have experienced memory loss and cognitive decline than those who did not binge drink.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.