Alcohol linked to decreased hypertension
risk in young women
BOSTON March 10, 2002 Moderate alcohol consumption
can lead to a reduced risk of developing hypertension in young women,
according to researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital
(MGH) and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). The study results,
published in the March 11 Archives of Internal Medicine,
use data from the Nurses' Health Study II, which is based at BWH.
"For women in their 20s to 40s, we found that alcohol intake
at moderate levels was beneficial to blood pressure and at high
levels it was harmful," says Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH, of the
Renal Unit at MGH and the Channing Laboratory at BWH, the paper's
lead author. Thadhani and his colleagues found that the association
between alcohol consumption and risk of chronic hypertension in
young women follows what is called a J-shaped curve: Light drinkers
had a decreased risk compared with nondrinkers, but heavier drinkers
had an increased risk.
Thadhani and his team gathered data from over 70,000 women aged
25 to 42 years old at the study's outset in 1989, who did not report
having hypertension during the study's early years. After eight
years of follow-up, the scientists found that women who drank about
two or three drinks a week had a risk of developing hypertension
about 15 percent lower than that of nondrinkers. However, women
who drank on average more than 10 or 12 drinks per week had a 30
percent increased risk of developing the condition.
The study also looked at patterns of alcohol consumption. "We
found that episodic or binge drinking didn't increase the risk of
high blood pressure compared to drinking more regularly," says
Thadhani. But he cautions that binge drinking is associated with
stroke, cardiovascular disease and trauma.
Thadhani and his colleagues also investigated whether there were
any differences in the type of drink consumed. At the higher levels
of consumption, all beverages - beer, wine, and liquor - increased
blood pressure, whereas there was a suggestion that moderate beer
drinking led to lower blood pressures. The researchers note that
more work needs to be done on this area.
"This study suggests that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol
may be one way to modify a woman's risk of developing high blood
pressure," says Thadhani. He stresses the importance of maintaining
a healthy blood pressure because chronic hypertension is associated
with heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. "Our next step
is to understand how alcohol affects women of different races and
ethnicity, since one group may respond differently than another.
We also want to see if modifying alcohol consumption can help women
who already have high blood pressure get to a healthier level,"
Other co-authors of the report include Carlos A. Camargo, Jr, MD,
DrPH, and Gary C. Curhan, MD, ScD, of MGH; and Meir J. Stampfer,
MD, DrPH; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; and Eric B. Rimm, ScD, the
study's senior author, of Harvard School of Public Health and BWH.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of
The Massachusetts General Hospital, established in 1811, is the
original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.
The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in
the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $300
million and major research centers in AIDS, the neurosciences, cardiovascular
research, cancer, cutaneous biology, transplantation biology and
Brigham and Women's Hospital is a 716-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate
of Harvard Medical School. The hospital's preeminence in all aspects
of clinical care is coupled with its strength in medical research.
A leading recipient of research grants from the National Institutes
of Health, BWH conducts internationally acclaimed clinical, basic
and epidemiological studies.
In 1994, the MGH and BWH joined to form Partners HealthCare System,
an integrated health care delivery system comprising the two academic
medical centers, specialty and community hospitals, a network of
physician groups and nonacute and home health services.
Media Contact: Sue
McGreevey , MGH Public Affairs
Physician Referral Service: 1-800-388-4644
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