Cardiovascular System

Throughout the developed world, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and accounts for up to 50% of all deaths. Considering this, it is of outmost relevance that epidemiological studies are showing consistently a reduced mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) and other forms of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by 25-30% in middle-aged and elderly individuals.

Moderate wine drinkers seem to live longer than those who abstain or drink heavily. This widely accepted association is known as the J-curve. The relative risk of dying from CVD is lowest among light to moderate drinkers and greater among abstainers. However, the risk increases steadily with each drink above moderation. Thus, while one or two glasses can be considered “good for your health”, drinking more than the guidelines will not provide more benefits, only more harm!

In a recent most comprehensive meta-analysis, an international research team examined results from 84 longitudinal cohort studies from all over the world comparing drinkers of alcoholic beverages with non-drinkers for the outcomes of overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke as well as incident coronary heart disease and incident stroke.
Meta-analyses for each of these outcomes were performed. The researchers carefully accounted for possible confounding factors.

As result, the cardiovascular mortality risk for drinkers of alcoholic beverages compared to non-drinkers was significantly reduced by 25%. Dose-response analysis revealed that the lowest risk of coronary heart disease mortality occurred with 15-30 g of alcohol a day but for stroke mortality ≤ 15 g of alcohol a day. Very importantly, also with regards to all cause mortality, moderate drinkers had an advantage compared to abstinent individuals: up to 15 g/day, their total mortality risk was 13% lower.
The scientists concluded that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of multiple cardiovascular outcomes and total mortality and further, they suggested that current scientific data indicate causality.

The results of another meta-analysis concerning the biochemical and physiological mechanisms showed that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (up to 15 g alcohol a day for women and up to 30 g alcohol a day for men) has beneficial effects on a variety of biomarkers linked to the risk of coronary heart disease.

 

Mechanisms

Approximately half of the cardio-protective effects of wine are believed to be due to alcohol itself since it has a beneficial effect on blood lipids.

Vascular disease occurs when bad cholesterol (LDL) is deposited in artery walls and builds up atherosclerotic deposits, eventually rupturing, causing a clot to form which can instantaneously block mostly or completely the flow through the coronary artery. Alcohol stimulates the production of the “good” high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) which is believed to remove cholesterol deposits from arteries and veins where it can form plaques.

It also reduces the “stickiness” or the clotting together of red blood cells which could form a clot and block the blood flow in an artery (thrombosis) resulting in a heart attack or stroke. In addition, it lowers the fibrinogen level which is a pro-inflammatory, thus alcohol works as an anti-inflammatory agent that affects the blood vessels positively and is involved in delaying the development of atherosclerosis.

Wine, in addition, contains phenolic substances
such as resveratrol, anthocyanins, flavonols and catechins which act as antioxidants and inhibit “bad” LDL cholesterol from being incorporated in the artery wall. These antioxidants also reduce the damage caused by the body's free radicals (toxic waste products) which contribute to causing degenerative diseases in the body such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and ageing. Furthermore, rather than the phenolic compounds themselves, their metabolites might be the real key players in cardiovascular and cancer protection. It should be noted that the antioxidant activity in unfermented grape juice is lower than in the finished wine - antioxidant activity increases during fermentation and maturation. Antioxidant levels will depend on the processing, filtering as well as on the variety, vintage, altitude and soil.

The phenolic compounds are also associated with reducing blood clotting and also maintaining the ability of the blood vessel wall to expand and contract.

The findings described in
the above quoted meta-analyses provide the most thorough examination of the literature and strengthen the case for a causal link between alcohol intake and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, suggesting that the lower risk of heart disease observed among moderate drinkers is caused by the alcoholic beverage itself, and not by other associated lifestyle factors. The scientific evidence is very convincing that regular moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, in particular wine,  can provide cardiovascular benefits in older adults.

 

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when vessel walls lose their flexibility causing excess pressure on arterial walls. If the elevated blood pressure is not reduced, the risk of heart disease, stroke, visual loss, and kidney failure increases. Early detection and treatment is lifesaving. The treatment often involves a modification of lifestyle. It has been a general, long-held belief that consumption of alcoholic beverages, in any form, in any quantity, raises blood pressure, and, therefore, many of those at risk have been advised not to drink at all.

Epidemiological studies suggest a lower risk of morbidity and mortality among lighter drinkers. The investigators found that the association between intake of alcoholic beverages and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) followed a J-shaped curve, whereas  alcohol drinking is linearly associated with blood pressure, and the CVD risk also increases  linearly according to blood pressure level.  However, several studies indicate that moderate wine consumption does not increase or can even decrease blood pressure. This effect seems mostly due to relaxed blood vessels immediately after consuming alcoholic beverages.
The non-alcoholic elements of wine, such as polyphenols may have additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood vessel relaxant properties.

International comparisons and some prospective research data suggest that wine is more protective against coronary heart disease (CHD) than liquor or beer. Possibly beneficial non-alcohol compo­nents in wine may exert the extra protection by wine, but a healthier drinking pattern or more favorable risk traits in wine drinkers (such as a healthier lifestyle) may be involved. Heavy drinking or a binge drinking pattern definitely associated with an increased risk of hypertension. Reducing the intake of alcoholic beverages to moderate levels often leads to substantial reduction of elevated blood pressure.

The above summary provides an overview of the topic, for more details and specific questions, please refer to the articles in the database.

Study of the relationships of alcohol drinking and risk of stroke can readily become mired in the labyrinthine interactions of drinking categorizations, non-linear associations, disparate cardiovascular conditions, and the heterogeneous types of stroke. This Commentary discusses the recent article by Larsson et al. (BMC Medicine 14:178, 2016). The authors split their material into separate meta-analyses of subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, and ischemic stroke, finding disparate alcohol-stroke relationships. Our Commentary pursues the disparity theme, using the lumpers versus splitters paradigm to explore several aspects of this complex area.Please see related article: http://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-016-0721-4.
BACKGROUND: Moderate consumption of red wine is associated with less cardiovascular events. We investigated whether red wine consumption counteracts the adverse vascular effects of cigarette smoking. METHODS: Participants smoked three cigarettes, alone or after drinking a titrated volume of red wine. Clinical chemistry, blood counts, plasma cytokine ELISAs, immuno-magnetic separation of CD14+ monocytes for gene expression analysis, fluorescence-activated cell sorting for microparticles, isolation of circulating mononuclear cells to measure telomerase activity were performed and urine cotinine levels were quantified. RESULTS: Compared to baseline, leukocytosis (p=0.019), neutrophilia (p<0.001), lymphopenia (p<0.001) and eosinopenia (p=0.008) were observed after only smoking. Endothelial as well as platelet-, monocyte- and leukocyte-derived microparticles (p<0.001 each) were elevated. In monocytes, mRNA expression of interleukin-6 (2.6+/-0.57-fold), tumor necrosis factor…
The association between alcohol consumption and the risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is inconsistent. Thus, meta- and a dose-response analyses are presented with the purpose of assessing their associations. A systematic literature search was performed using Pubmed and Embase electronic databases for pertinent observational studies. Random-effects or fixed-effect models were employed to combine the estimates of the relative risks (RRs) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs). A dose-response pattern was conducted for further analysis. The current meta-analysis includes 14 observational studies reporting data on 483,553 individuals and 2,556 patients. The combined RRs of light alcohol consumption (30 g/day) when compared with no alcohol consumption, as demonstrated by a result of 1.78 (95% CI: 1.46, 2.17). Dose-response analysis showed evidence of…
Ethanol consumption is associated with left ventricular dysfunction in heavy ethanol drinkers. The effect of moderate ethanol intake on left ventricular function in hypertension, however, is unknown. We investigated the relationship between ethanol consumption and cardiac changes in nonalcoholic hypertensive patients. In 335 patients with primary hypertension, we assessed daily ethanol consumption by questionnaires that combined evaluation of recent and lifetime ethanol exposure and examined cardiac structure and function by echocardiography. Patients with abnormal liver tests, previous cardiovascular events, left ventricular ejection fraction
BACKGROUND: The effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption on cardiac mechanics remain poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and left ventricular (LV) and left atrial (LA) function using myocardial deformation. METHODS: In total 3,946 asymptomatic participants (mean age, 49.7 +/- 10.7 years; 65% men) were consecutively studied using comprehensive echocardiography and two-dimensional speckle-tracking in a cross-sectional, retrospective manner. Global LV longitudinal and circumferential strain and LA strain were assessed and related to habitual alcohol consumption pattern (fewer than one, one to six, or more than six drinks per week) before and after propensity matching. RESULTS: With increasing weekly alcohol consumption, participants displayed greater LV eccentric remodeling, impaired diastolic function,…

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