WASHINGTON, DC, October 1, 2010 — New research suggests that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may aid in the prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in women. According to research published in the October edition of HeartRhythm , the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, intake of up to one drink per day was associated with lower risk of SCD. The study is the first and largest to prospectively explore the role of alcohol consumption on risk of SCD in a female population and investigate how the risk compares to other forms of coronary heart disease (CHD).
From 1980 to 2006, researchers evaluated 85,067 registered female nurses between the ages of 34 and 59 years old from the Nurses' Health Study. Participants completed a mailed questionnaire inquiring about medical history and cardiovascular and lifestyle risk factors every 2 years. Information on dietary habits, including alcohol consumption, was assessed every 4 years. Beer, wine and liquor were the possible beverage types included in the questionnaire. With this information, participants were categorized as abstainers, former drinkers or current drinkers. Drinkers were grouped into four categories including daily alcohol intake of 0.1-4.9 g/day (< ½ drink), 5.0-14.9 g/day (~ ½-1 drink), 15.0-29.9 g/day (~1-2 drinks), and ≥ 30.0 g/day (≥ 2 drinks).
Overall study findings revealed women with alcohol intake of 5.0-14.9 g/day or approximately ½ -1 drink per day had a 36% lower risk of SCD compared to abstainers, and there was no evidence that the benefit of alcohol was restricted to one particular type of beverage. The lowest risk of SCD occurred at alcohol intake of approximately 13 g/day, and alcohol intake of up to 22 g/day was associated with a significantly lower risk compared to zero consumption. The risk among women in the highest category of alcohol intake (≥ 2 drinks/day) did not significantly differ from the risk observed among abstainers. However, few women in this population drank more than 2 drinks per day, and therefore the investigators could not evaluate the association between heavy alcohol consumption and risk of SCD.
"While our study does show positive benefits of moderate alcohol consumption for prevention of sudden cardiac death, consumption of alcohol must balance potential benefits against potential risks," said lead author Stephanie E. Chiuve, MD, Instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
SCD is a very serious health issue that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. In fact, according to the Heart Rhythm Society, more than 250,000 people die every year as a result of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). To raise awareness about SCA, the Heart Rhythm Society created the "Apples and Oranges" ongoing awareness campaign designed to educate people about SCA and what can be done to help save lives. In addition, the October edition of HeartRhythm has a special focus on SCA and SCD. This study is one of the many included that covers procedures, treatments and outcomes specific to SCA and SCD.