When “Taking the Edge Off” Becomes a Heart Issue
What do you reach for to help when the going gets tough? Whether trying to ease the monotony of daily life or soften the disappointment of unmet expectations, we all lean into different coping strategies. But not all strategies are created equally. Many things we reach for in distress are short-term solutions that may do more harm than good. One of those common crutches is alcohol. Although drinking alcohol “to take the edge off” is common in American culture, recent research shows that drinking alcohol may alter the structure and function of the heart.
Between 1987-1989, investigators recruited 15,792 men and women, ages 45 to 64, from four communities in the United States. Participants received visits a total of four times at 3-year intervals with phone calls in-between visits. Then, in 2011 and 2013, 6,118 participants still living had echocardiography at a fifth visit.
Of the patients still living and reported alcohol consumption, they found interesting results. Participants found that increasing alcohol intake were more likely to have changes occurring in the structure of their hearts. Specifically, they experienced changes to their left aorta (LA) and left ventricle (LV).
According to prior research cited in the study, LA enlargement and LV mass are associated with heart diseases such as heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and death. And maybe even more critical findings suggested, “Women seem to be more sensitive than men to the toxic effects of alcohol on cardiac function, developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy with a lower total lifetime dose of alcohol compared with men.”
Ultimately, this research adds to the growing scientific concern about alcohol intake. Although the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for 2020-2025 still state that the suggested alcohol limit for men is two drinks or less a day and one drink or less for women, they also strongly discourage anyone who does not already drink alcohol from beginning to drink.
Maybe it’s time for a “change of heart” before alcohol physically changes yours. Consider your alcohol intake and the impact it’s having on your body. Need more research about alcohol to change your mind?
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