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Heart Tissue May Be Harmed by Heavy Drinking: Study

TUESDAY, Dec. 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy drinking may damage heart tissue, researchers warn.

Previous studies have shown that heavy drinking increases the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart rhythm disorders, but there has been little study into why it poses such a risk to heart health.

In this study, researchers analyzed three blood indicators of heart damage in more than 2,500 adults, ages 35-69, in northwest Russia.

Of those, nearly 280 were being treated at a hospital for alcoholism.

The three indicators were of heart injury, cardiac wall stretch and inflammation. Adults self-reported their alcohol use.

Compared to non-problem drinkers in the general population, the hospital patients had more than 10% higher indicators for heart injury; about a 47% higher indication for cardiac wall stretch; and about a 69% higher odds for inflammation.

In the general population, the blood marker for cardiac wall stretch was 31.5% higher among heavy drinkers than among non-problem drinkers, according to the study. It was published Dec. 18 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"A person can have heart damage before symptoms occur, which we call subclinical heart disease. By measuring the level of certain molecules in the blood, we were able to find that heavy drinkers are much more likely to have subclinical heart damage than people who drink less heavily," said study author Olena Iakunchykova, a doctoral candidate at the University in Tromso, The Arctic University of Norway.

She said the results suggest that heavy drinkers are creating higher-than-normal levels of inflammation that have been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease.

"The study adds to what we already know about the health consequences of heavy alcohol consumption," Iakunchykova said in a journal news release. "We are now studying ultrasound images of the heart as it beats to help us identify the precise sorts of heart damage associated with heavy and harmful drinking."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more on alcohol and your health.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, news release, Dec. 18, 2019

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