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Higher alcohol consumption increases risk for stroke and PAD

Researchers say drinking more has clear negative health repercussions

Photo (c) LittleBee80 - Getty Images
Researchers have previously found several health risks associated with alcohol, and now a new study is continuing to build on those findings. 

After conducting a genetic analysis, researchers from the American Heart Association tested have determined that high levels of alcohol consumption can increase consumers’ risk of stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

“Since genetic variants are determined at conception and cannot be affected by subsequent environmental factors, this technique allows us to better determine whether a risk factor -- in this case, high alcohol consumption -- is the cause of a disease, or if it is simply associated,” said researcher Susanna Larson, PhD. 

Risks to heart health

Using the U.K. Biobank, which is a data bank that monitors residents’ health, the researchers analyzed what effect alcohol had on heart health. While previous studies have indicated that no level of alcohol is safe for consumers’ health, the researchers learned that high alcohol consumption comes with a number of additional risks. 

The researchers learned that the risk for stroke increased by nearly 30 percent when consumers drank heavily, while peripheral artery disease (PAD) was three times as likely for heavy drinkers. PAD impedes blood flow throughout the body by making the arteries narrower. 

The findings are highly relevant now because many consumers have turned to alcohol since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers say it’s important for consumers to understand the potential risks associated with heavy drinking. 

“Higher alcohol consumption is a known cause of death and disability, yet it was previously unclear if alcohol consumption is also a cause of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Larsson explained. “Considering that many people consume alcohol regularly, it is important to disentangle any risks or benefits.” 

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