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Moderate Drinking in Seniors Linked to Heart Damage

Moderate Drinking in Seniors Linked to Heart Damage
Moderate Drinking Linked to Heart Damage

18 June2015

Aged Care Reviews

A new study has shown that even light-to-moderate drinking in the elderly might be harmful. This is according to the findings, which were published the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. It also shows that there are possible links between cardiovascular damage in seniors, and drinking one alcoholic beverage per day for women, and two per day for men.

In addition to these findings, the study shows that there is a correlation between an increased intake of alcohol, and a risk for more severe heart damage. Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women's Hospital's director of non-invasive cardiology, Dr Scott Solomon, was the senior author of the study. He said that what they found only serves to “reinforce” the guidelines for drinking and the elderly, which were already in place.

For adults of any age, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans considers just one drink per day for women, and two for men, to be “moderate”. That certainly doesn't line up with the amount that many people drink, so this is a particularly worrying study. In the past, medical authorities have actually declared light, and even moderate, consumption of alcohol to be beneficial for the heart. That has been put into doubt by the new findings of Dr Solomon and his team of researchers.

In order to carry out the study, the team took data from 4,466 women and men, who were 76 years old on average. Each participant was involved in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. The data was reported by each individual themselves, about how much alcohol they drank. Each person was placed into one of the following categories: 14 drinks per week, 7-14 drinks per week, below seven drinks per week, and those who didn't drink at all.

Other factors were taken into account, including whether the participants smoked, their weight, annual income, education background, and any incidences of abnormal blood pleasure and diabetes.

Participant’s heart sizes, functionality, and structure were all observed through the use of echocardiograms. The researchers discovered that those who drank more alcohol each week, had hearts that were more damaged. The main area in the heart for pumping blood, called the left ventricle, was larger in those who drank alcohol. Men who drank above 14 alcoholic beverages every week had sustained the most damage to this part of the heart.

In women, moderate consumption of alcohol was linked to a worse heart function. Even for women who only consumed one drink per day, there was a decrease in the heart's ability to pump blood out of the left ventricle. This consequently caused more stress on the left ventricle. For the women who drank more, this effect was stronger.

After assessing their findings, the research team said that the results show a relation between regularly drinking alcohol, and decreased heart function and structure, in the elderly. This is even more risky for women, as the damage can be caused by lower amounts of alcohol. They claim that the study is particularly reliable, because such a large group of people were involved for collecting data. Also, because they also took into account other factors that might skew results.

Even though the results in this study should be reliable, there is the chance that participants might have reported drinking less than they really do. For anyone who is concerned about an elderly relative who drinks even light-to-moderate amounts, the study should be quite worrying. This might be something to consider when you are thinking about the best way to care for a senior relative.

Without proper medical diagnosis, many seniors are simply carrying on with habits from their youths. This might seem to have no ill effect at first. However, studies like this show that people need to start to adopt different habits, once they reach retirement age. Regular medical care, from doctors and registered nurses, or in-home carers, is a suitable solution in many cases. It's wise to take this into account when you're looking for a good nursing home for your loved ones. Left without proper guidance and medical monitoring, problems like this can go unchecked for far too long. Eventually, it could be too late to prevent serious harm.

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