Research Shows Light-to-Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated with Lower Sudden Cardiac Death Among Women

WASHINGTON, DC  — 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). View the study.

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.

About the Heart Rhythm Society
The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education and optimal health care policies and standards. Incorporated in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, it has a membership of more than 5,300 heart rhythm professionals in more than 72 countries around the world.   

About HeartRhythm Journal
HeartRhythm provides rapid publication of the most important science developments in the field of arrhythmias and cardiovascular electrophysiology (EP). As the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, HeartRhythm publishes both basic and clinical subject matter of scientific excellence devoted to the EP of the heart and blood vessels, as well as therapy. The journal is the only EP publication serving the entire electrophysiology community from basic to clinical academic researchers, private practitioners, technicians, industry and trainees. HeartRhythm Journal has an impact factor of 4.559 (as of 2010) and ranks 11th out of 78 cardiovascular medicine journals worldwide by the Institute for Scientific Information, remaining the number one specialty journal in cardiology. It is also the official publication of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society.

Contact: Kennesha Baldwin
Heart Rhythm Society
(202) 464-3476
[email protected]