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What Kind of Drinking Can Trigger A-Fib?

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Frequent drinking is more likely than binge drinking to increase your risk of the most common heart rhythm disorder, a new study finds.

Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) increases the risk of stroke by fivefold. Symptoms include racing or irregular pulse, palpitations, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness.

For the new study, researchers analyzed data from 9.7 million people without a-fib at a 2009 health checkup. The participants were asked about their alcohol consumption and were followed until 2017.

The strongest risk factor for a-fib was the number of times per week a person drank. The greatest risk was seen in those who drank every day, followed by drinking twice or once a week.

The study found no clear link between binge drinking and a-fib risk.

As in previous studies, this one found an association between the amount of alcohol consumed and risk of a-fib. For each gram of alcohol consumed per week, new-onset a-fib risk rose 2%.

Compared to mild drinkers, those who drank no alcohol had an 8.6% higher risk of a-fib. Moderate drinkers had a 7.7% higher risk, and heavy drinkers saw their risk rise 21.5%, according to the study published online Oct. 17 in the journal EP Europace.

Previous research found that a-fib risk rose 8% for every 12 grams of alcohol consumed per week. That’s about one drink. But it wasn’t clear whether the total amount of alcohol or the number of drinking sessions played a bigger part in the increased risk.

“Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,” study author Dr. Jong-Il Choi said in a journal news release. “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.”

Choi is a professor of medicine at Korea University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea.

“The number of drinking sessions was related to atrial fibrillation onset regardless of age and sex,” he said. “Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease. In addition, drinking can provoke sleep disturbance, which is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”

Preventing a-fib, rather than treating its consequences, should be the priority, Choi said. “Alcohol consumption is probably the most easily modifiable risk factor. To prevent new-onset atrial fibrillation, both the frequency and weekly amount of alcohol consumption should be reduced,” he concluded.

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SOURCE:EP Europace, news release, Oct. 17, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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What Kind of Drinking Can Trigger A-Fib?

FRIDAY, Oct. 18, 2019 — Frequent drinking is more likely than binge drinking to increase your risk of the most common heart rhythm disorder, a new study finds.

Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) increases the risk of stroke by fivefold. Symptoms include racing or irregular pulse, palpitations, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness.

For the new study, researchers analyzed data from 9.7 million people without a-fib at a 2009 health checkup. The participants were asked about their alcohol consumption and were followed until 2017.

The strongest risk factor for a-fib was the number of times per week a person drank. The greatest risk was seen in those who drank every day, followed by drinking twice or once a week.

The study found no clear link between binge drinking and a-fib risk.

As in previous studies, this one found an association between the amount of alcohol consumed and risk of a-fib. For each gram of alcohol consumed per week, new-onset a-fib risk rose 2%.

Compared to mild drinkers, those who drank no alcohol had an 8.6% higher risk of a-fib. Moderate drinkers had a 7.7% higher risk, and heavy drinkers saw their risk rise 21.5%, according to the study published online Oct. 17 in the journal EP Europace.

Previous research found that a-fib risk rose 8% for every 12 grams of alcohol consumed per week. That’s about one drink. But it wasn’t clear whether the total amount of alcohol or the number of drinking sessions played a bigger part in the increased risk.

“Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,” study author Dr. Jong-Il Choi said in a journal news release. “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.”

Choi is a professor of medicine at Korea University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea.

“The number of drinking sessions was related to atrial fibrillation onset regardless of age and sex,” he said. “Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease. In addition, drinking can provoke sleep disturbance, which is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”

Preventing a-fib, rather than treating its consequences, should be the priority, Choi said. “Alcohol consumption is probably the most easily modifiable risk factor. To prevent new-onset atrial fibrillation, both the frequency and weekly amount of alcohol consumption should be reduced,” he concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on a-fib.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: October 2019

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Trying to Conceive? Both Dad and Mom Should Give Up Drinking in Months Before

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Women have long been told to cut out drinking if they are pregnant or think they might become pregnant.

But a new study suggests that men hoping to become fathers should also stay away from alcohol for at least six months before trying to conceive.

If would-be moms and dads drink in the three months before pregnancy, and if mom drinks during the first trimester, they run the risk of having a baby with congenital heart disease. Men’s drinking boosts the risk 44%, and women’s, 16%.

Binge drinking — that’s five or more drinks at one time — raises men’s risk by 52%, and women’s, 16%.

“Binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and dangerous behavior that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health,” said study author Dr. Jiabi Qin, a researcher in the school of public health Central South University in Changsha, China.

The study doesn’t prove that drinking causes heart defects, only that the two appear related.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed 55 published studies, which included nearly 42,000 infants with congenital heart disease and nearly 298,000 without.

“We observed a gradually rising risk of congenital heart diseases as parental alcohol consumption increased. The relationship was not statistically significant at the lower quantities,” Qin said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.

Compared with not drinking, maternal alcohol use was also linked to a 20% higher risk of a baby born with a combination of four structural heart abnormalities known as Tetralogy of Fallot.

More than one million babies a year are born with heart defects. These conditions are the main cause of infant death and increase the likelihood of future heart disease.

“Although our analysis has limitations — for example, the type of alcohol was not recorded — it does indicate that men and women planning a family should give up alcohol,” Qin said.

The report was published online Oct. 2 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Oct. 3, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Booze Taxes Don’t Make Up for Societal Costs of Excess Drinking: Study

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 11, 2019 — Alcohol taxes do little to reduce the burden on American taxpayers for the harmful impacts of heavy drinking, a new study finds.

The cost of harm caused by excessive drinking in the United States is just over $ 2 per drink, with about 80 cents of that shouldered by government. But state and federal alcohol taxes bring in an average of about 21 cents per drink.

That means most of the financial toll of alcohol-related harm is borne by people who drink in moderation or don’t drink at all, the study authors said.

“Total alcohol taxes accounted for a median of 26.7% of the economic cost to the government, and 10.3% of the total economic cost of excessive drinking,” the researchers reported in the Sept. 11 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

“The disparity between alcohol-related cost to government and alcohol taxes amounts to a large taxpayer-funded subsidy of excessive drinking and alcohol companies,” senior author Dr. Timothy Naimi said in a journal news release. He’s a physician and epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Public Health.

Research shows that higher prices on alcohol — often in the form of increased taxes — can reduce excessive drinking and related harms, such as violence, vehicle-related injuries and liver cirrhosis.

“Increasing alcohol taxes could improve public health and reduce the disparity between alcohol-related costs and alcohol taxes in states,” Naimi said.

The federal government charges a standard tax on alcohol that applies nationwide and is equivalent to 5, 4 and 16 cents per drink for beer, wine and distilled spirits, respectively, according to the news release. States can levy up to three added taxes.

Lead study author Jason Blanchette said the new study could shift the debate about alcohol taxes.

“Policy debates around alcohol taxes have mostly centered on public health benefits, but I think our study might change the focus of the debate somewhat, since it seems fair that those who drink the most, and who produce and sell alcohol should cover the costs to society,” he suggested. Blanchette is a postdoctoral associate at Boston University School of Public Health.

The bottom line, Naimi said, is that current taxes don’t come close to covering alcohol-related costs.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and public health.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

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Even a Little Drinking While Pregnant Ups Miscarriage Odds: Study

TUESDAY, Aug. 27, 2019 — Just small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, researchers warn.

They analyzed 24 studies conducted between 1970 and 2019 that included more than 231,000 pregnant women.

They found that drinking alcohol during pregnancy — even small amounts — increases odds of miscarriage by 19%. Among women who have fewer than five drinks a week, each additional drink a week during pregnancy was linked with a 6% higher risk of miscarriage.

“Since alcohol is one of the most common exposures in early pregnancy, it’s critical to understand how consumption relates to miscarriage,” said lead investigator Alex Sundermann, a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn.

“Adverse pregnancy outcomes, like fetal alcohol syndrome, are often associated in popular culture with heavy consumption. However, our meta-analysis indicates even a modest amount of alcohol use has a meaningful impact on miscarriage risk,” she said in a university news release.

The review pointed to important gaps in knowledge, including how the timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy relates to miscarriage risk.

A previous study found that most women quit drinking after finding out they’re pregnant, but no studies account for how this affects miscarriage risk.

“Timing of alcohol exposure in pregnancy is undoubtedly meaningful but isn’t well-studied,” Sundermann said.

“The groundwork for fetal development is laid in those first weeks of gestation before pregnancy can be detected with a home test, and that is also the time when alcohol exposure is most prevalent. It’s key that we understand the impact of consumption in those first weeks,” she said.

Sundermann noted that 1 in 3 women experience miscarriage, but many never get answers about why their miscarriage occurred.

She emphasized the need for more research into risk factors for miscarriage.

“Most women are motivated to do anything they can for the health of their pregnancy. We want to provide this information to empower women to make the best decisions,” Sundermann said.

The meta-analysis was recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

More information

The March of Dimes has more on miscarriage.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: August 2019

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It’s Not Just College Kids: Many Seniors Are Binge Drinking, Too

WEDNESDAY, July 31, 2019 — Binge drinking is often associated with young adults, but according to a new study, more than 10% of people over 65 do it, too.

Among seniors, binges are most common in men and those who use cannabis, researchers found. Experts said the trend is troubling, because older people should actually be cutting back on alcohol.

“Many organizations, such as the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], recommend lower drinking levels as people get older or have more chronic diseases,” said lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Han, an assistant professor of geriatric medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

Other studies have documented increasing alcohol consumption in the United States and worldwide, he said.

Binge drinking is generally defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at a time. NIAAA suggests seniors cap their alcohol intake at three drinks a day.

Because the new study used the higher cutoff, it may actually underestimate how common binge drinking is among U.S. seniors.

Han isn’t sure why binge drinking is on the rise among older people, but he has a theory.

“It is possible,” he said, “that the increase in binge drinking is partly driven by increases by older women.”

Although their male counterparts are more likely to binge, older women are catching up. Binge drinking among older men remained relatively stable between 2005 to 2014.

Han says doctors should screen older adults for “unhealthy alcohol use, including binge drinking, even if it is not frequent.”

For the study, his team collected data on nearly 11,000 U.S. adults 65 and older who took part in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017.

Of those, 10.6% had binged in the past month, the study found. That was up from previous studies. Between 2005 and 2014, between 7.7% and 9% of older Americans were binge drinkers.

Blacks and people with less than a high school education were more likely to do so, the researchers found.

They found no link between binge drinking and mental disorders or a higher incidence of chronic diseases. Among senior binge drinkers, the most common chronic diseases were high blood pressure (41%), heart disease (23%) and diabetes (18%).

Still, researchers warned that excessive drinking can make chronic diseases worse and lead to accidents.

That binge drinking is increasing is worrisome, said Dr. James Garbutt, medical director of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“By definition, binge drinking means drinking to the point of intoxication,” said Garbutt, who wasn’t involved with the study. “In older adults, that increases risks of falls, other accidents, blackouts, cognitive impairment, depression and suicide.”

Plus, alcohol makes high blood pressure worse and is a significant factor for dementia, he said.

“It seems we need to educate older adults about these risks and encourage them that if they are going to drink alcohol, to limit intake to one to two standard drinks and try not to drink daily,” Garbutt said.

If people find they can’t drink without a binge, they should talk with their doctor or a counselor and consider a period of abstinence to see how they feel, he said.

“Reducing or stopping drinking could be one of the best things they do for their health, and many are surprised at how good they feel,” Garbutt said.

The report was published July 31 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

More information

For more on binge drinking, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: July 2019

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Drinking and Your Health: A Reality Check

THURSDAY, May 9, 2019 — The Mediterranean diet consistently tops the list of food plans that convey health benefits, and one reason many people like it is that it allows moderate amounts of red wine. But there’s no definitive proof that wine or any form of alcohol should be on everyone’s menu.

And an analysis of many observational studies done on drinking and published in The Lancet has re-opened the conversation. It found that even one drink a day might harm some people, and the risks associated with alcohol, including some types of cancer, escalate from there.

This isn’t to say that you should stop drinking, but rather that alcohol consumption should be assessed with your specific health profile in mind.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015 reported on a two-year trial involving three groups of adults with type 2 diabetes. It compared the effects of drinking mineral water to drinking red or white wine with dinner.

Both groups who drank wine saw benefits in blood sugar control. The red wine drinkers also saw modest heart health benefits, including higher HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, important because diabetes complications include heart disease. But even in this study there were some qualifiers.

Not everyone metabolizes or benefits from alcohol in the same way. Also, the study involved only people who already had diabetes, so no conclusions can be drawn about wine as a way to prevent the disease.

In general, controlled studies on drinking with human participants are rare. Most headline-grabbing research, including a British study that looked at how red wine might help prevent colon cancer, has been done in mice, not people. And just because a little is good doesn’t mean that more is better. Any benefits of alcohol can be quickly outweighed by the risks if you overindulge. Excessive drinking can cause liver damage and raise the risk for depression, falling and other accidents, as well as for some cancers. It can also lead to problems in personal and professional relationships.

As a reminder, moderation means no more than two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and what you need to know to drink safely.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019

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‘Exposure Therapy’ Best Against PTSD Plus Drinking

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) — For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) combined with a drinking problem, the type of psychotherapy prescribed can make a difference in recovery rates, a new study finds.

So-called prolonged exposure therapy is more effective than coping skills therapy in helping these patients, according to researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

“The main takeaway of the study for me is that we may be doing a disservice to veterans if we don’t offer them the best treatments we have available for PTSD, such as prolonged exposure,” said study leader Sonya Norman.

The findings could help guide care for many veterans who have both PTSD and an alcohol use disorder, which often occur together, Norman and her colleagues said. Alcohol use disorder does not always rise to the level of alcoholism, which is a term used to describe someone with a severe form of alcohol dependence.

The study included 119 patients with PTSD and alcohol use disorder. Some received prolonged exposure therapy while others received a coping skills therapy called Seeking Safety.

In prolonged exposure therapy, patients gradually confront memories, feelings and situations related to their PTSD-causing trauma. The objective is to face them without feeling anxiety and stress. It’s considered the gold standard for PTSD treatment.

Seeking Safety is a widely accepted therapy for patients with both PTSD and alcohol use disorder, and focuses on coping skills rather than exposure.

Both therapies led to fewer days of heavy drinking and a decrease in PTSD symptoms, but study participants in the prolonged exposure therapy group had significantly lower PTSD symptom scores and higher rates of PTSD remission.

Immediately after treatment, PTSD remission was achieved in 22% of prolonged exposure patients and 7% of those in the coping skills group, the study authors said in a VA news release. At a 3-month follow-up, the rates were 25% versus 6%, respectively. After six months, the rates were 33% versus 15%, respectively, the findings showed.

Patients in both groups had similar reductions in heavy drinking days after treatment, according to the report published April 24 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Continued

Some experts had questioned use of exposure therapy for these patients. However, “the research is not showing concerns that PTSD patients with alcohol use disorder can’t handle exposure to be true,” said Norman, a VA researcher and psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Diego.

“The next stage of this research is to learn how to make prolonged exposure even more effective for patients with PTSD and alcohol use disorder. We are now conducting a study where we are combining medication to help reduce drinking with prolonged exposure to see if the combination helps patients complete prolonged exposure and benefit even more from the treatment,” Norman said in the news release.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: Veterans Affairs, news release, April 24, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

‘); } else { // If we match both our test Topic Ids and Buisness Ref we want to place the ad in the middle of page 1 if($ .inArray(window.s_topic, moveAdTopicIds) > -1 && $ .inArray(window.s_business_reference, moveAdBuisRef) > -1){ // The logic below reads count all nodes in page 1. Exclude the footer,ol,ul and table elements. Use the varible // moveAdAfter to know which node to place the Ad container after. window.placeAd = function(pn) { var nodeTags = [‘p’, ‘h3′,’aside’, ‘ul’], nodes, target; nodes = $ (‘.article-page:nth-child(‘ + pn + ‘)’).find(nodeTags.join()).not(‘p:empty’).not(‘footer *’).not(‘ol *, ul *, table *’); //target = nodes.eq(Math.floor(nodes.length / 2)); target = nodes.eq(moveAdAfter); $ (”).insertAfter(target); } // Currently passing in 1 to move the Ad in to page 1 window.placeAd(1); } else { // This is the default location on the bottom of page 1 $ (‘.article-page:nth-child(1)’).append(”); } } })(); $ (function(){ // Create a new conatiner where we will make our lazy load Ad call if the reach the footer section of the article $ (‘.main-container-3’).prepend(”); });

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‘Exposure Therapy’ May Work Best for PTSD Plus Drinking Problems

FRIDAY, April 26, 2019 — For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) combined with a drinking problem, the type of psychotherapy prescribed can make a difference in recovery rates, a new study finds.

So-called prolonged exposure therapy is more effective than coping skills therapy in helping these patients, according to researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

“The main takeaway of the study for me is that we may be doing a disservice to veterans if we don’t offer them the best treatments we have available for PTSD, such as prolonged exposure,” said study leader Sonya Norman.

The findings could help guide care for many veterans who have both PTSD and an alcohol use disorder, which often occur together, Norman and her colleagues said. Alcohol use disorder does not always rise to the level of alcoholism, which is a term used to describe someone with a severe form of alcohol dependence.

The study included 119 patients with PTSD and alcohol use disorder. Some received prolonged exposure therapy while others received a coping skills therapy called Seeking Safety.

In prolonged exposure therapy, patients gradually confront memories, feelings and situations related to their PTSD-causing trauma. The objective is to face them without feeling anxiety and stress. It’s considered the gold standard for PTSD treatment.

Seeking Safety is a widely accepted therapy for patients with both PTSD and alcohol use disorder, and focuses on coping skills rather than exposure.

Both therapies led to fewer days of heavy drinking and a decrease in PTSD symptoms, but study participants in the prolonged exposure therapy group had significantly lower PTSD symptom scores and higher rates of PTSD remission.

Immediately after treatment, PTSD remission was achieved in 22% of prolonged exposure patients and 7% of those in the coping skills group, the study authors said in a VA news release. At a 3-month follow-up, the rates were 25% versus 6%, respectively. After six months, the rates were 33% versus 15%, respectively, the findings showed.

Patients in both groups had similar reductions in heavy drinking days after treatment, according to the report published April 24 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Some experts had questioned use of exposure therapy for these patients. However, “the research is not showing concerns that PTSD patients with alcohol use disorder can’t handle exposure to be true,” said Norman, a VA researcher and psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Diego.

“The next stage of this research is to learn how to make prolonged exposure even more effective for patients with PTSD and alcohol use disorder. We are now conducting a study where we are combining medication to help reduce drinking with prolonged exposure to see if the combination helps patients complete prolonged exposure and benefit even more from the treatment,” Norman said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on PTSD.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: April 2019

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Could a Little Drinking Help Those With Heart Failure?

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A new study suggests that an occasional drink won’t harm, and might even help seniors with heart failure.

Heart failure patients who drank in moderation — a drink a day for women, two for men — had an average survival that was a year longer than nondrinkers, the researchers found.

“My patients who are newly diagnosed with heart failure often ask me if they should stop having that glass of wine every night,” said senior study author Dr. David Brown, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. “And until now, I didn’t have a good answer for them.”

But one cardiologist who wasn’t involved in the study pushed back hard against any recommendation that drinking is “healthy” for people with heart failure.

“We know with certainty that alcohol is a cause of heart failure,” said Dr. David Majure, who help directs cardiovascular care at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

“This research can be added to the long history of observational studies that will delight the alcohol industry and confuse the public,” Majure said. “In no way should one conclude from this study that alcohol consumption of any quantity is safe or can prolong life after a diagnosis of heart failure.”

Brown and his colleagues agreed that the study couldn’t prove that moderate alcohol intake caused the benefit in longevity. It’s possible that other factors among drinkers might be responsible, they said.

In the study, the St. Louis team collected data on nearly 5,900 Medicare recipients who took part in a major U.S. heart health study from 1989 to 1993. Among the participants, nearly 400 developed heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart loses the ability to pump sufficient blood to the body. It can be caused by a heart attack, or by chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease.

After taking into account factors such as age, sex, race, education, income, smoking and blood pressure, the researchers found that moderate drinkers (seven or fewer drinks per week) lived an average of 383 days longer than nondrinkers.

Continued

For purposes of the study, “one drink” was defined as a 12-ounce beer, a 6-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

Dr. Eugenia Gianos directs the Women’s Heart Health program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that the study population was “small,” so “I would be very hesitant to draw conclusions” about drinking from the research.

“It’s also possible that other factors that go along with drinking alcohol — having a social network, positive outlook, good coping mechanisms, optimal diet or active lifestyle — are at play” in boosting drinkers’ longevity, Gianos said.

Brown stressed that certainly, “People who develop heart failure at an older age and never drank shouldn’t start drinking.”

Still, “our study suggests people who have had a daily drink or two before their diagnosis of heart failure can continue to do so without concern that it’s causing harm,” he said in a university news release.

But even then, “that decision should always be made in consultation with their doctors,” Brown added.

The report was published online Dec. 28 the journal JAMA Network Open.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: David T. Majure, M.D., medical director, Mechanical Circulatory Support, Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; Eugenia Gianos, M.D., director, Women’s Heart Health, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Dec. 28, 2018, press release, Washington University in St. Louis

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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‘Moderate’ Drinking May Protect Brain

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Middle-aged people who drink moderately — no more than a glass of wine a day — may have a relatively lower risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers report.

The study, which followed 9,000 British adults for over two decades, found that both heavier drinkers and abstainers had a higher dementia risk than moderate drinkers.

Moderate drinking was defined according to the recommended drinking limits in the United Kingdom: no more than 14 “units” of alcohol per week. That translates to one medium-sized glass of wine, or roughly a pint of beer, each day.

People who were nondrinkers in middle age were 47 percent more likely to eventually be diagnosed with dementia, versus moderate drinkers, the findings showed.

Meanwhile, when people drank beyond moderate levels, their risk of dementia rose in tandem with their alcohol intake.

Among people who had more than a drink per day, dementia risk rose by 17 percent with every additional 7 units of alcohol they downed per week. That’s equivalent to three to four glasses of wine.

None of that, however, proves there is something directly protective about moderate drinking, experts stressed.

“No one is saying that if you don’t drink, you should start,” said Dr. Sevil Yasar, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

She wrote an editorial published with the study Aug. 1 in the BMJ.

“Why does abstaining appear detrimental when it comes to dementia risk?” Yasar said. “We don’t know.”

The researchers tried to account for other health and lifestyle factors. But it’s still possible that there’s something else about the average nondrinker that explains the higher dementia risk, Yasar said.

What does seem clear, she added, is that people should limit their drinking — possibly to levels even lower than those currently recommended in the United States.

U.S. guidelines differ from the U.K.’s — suggesting that men can safely have up to two drinks per day. Women are advised to limit themselves to one per day.

Continued

Severine Sabia, the lead researcher on the study, said that advice to men may need to be revisited.

“It is possible that in countries like the U.S., there needs to be a downward revision of the threshold that carries harm,” said Sabia, a researcher with the French national research institute Inserm.

As for nondrinkers, she echoed what Yasar said: “Our finding on abstainers should not motivate people to start drinking alcohol.”

That is partly because of the many health risks tied to drinking — from liver disease to several cancers, including breast, liver and throat cancers, she explained.

The findings are based on 9,087 British adults who were 50, on average, at the study’s start in the 1980s. Over the next couple of decades, 397 were diagnosed with dementia.

In general, middle-aged adults who were either teetotalers or relatively heavier drinkers were more likely to develop dementia, the researchers said.

The risk appeared most clear among the heaviest drinkers: People who ended up in the hospital for alcohol-related diseases were over three times more likely to develop dementia than other study participants were.

According to Sabia, that suggests heavy drinking can contribute to dementia by directly harming the brain.

On the other hand, abstainers in this study tended to have more risk factors for heart disease: They were heavier, exercised less and had a higher rate of type 2 diabetes, for instance. And those differences explained part of the link to dementia — though not all of it.

Research suggests that many of the same factors that raise the risk of heart disease may also boost the risk of dementia — possibly due to poorer blood flow to the brain.

Yasar pointed out that “what’s good for your heart seems to also be good for your brain.”

Many studies have found that moderate drinkers tend to have better heart health than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. However, it’s not clear that the alcohol, per se, is the reason.

So, Yasar said, it cannot be assumed that light drinking helps thwart dementia by boosting a person’s heart health.

“Luckily,” she added, “there are many ways to improve your cardiovascular health — like regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.”

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Sources

SOURCES: Severine Sabia, Ph.D., Inserm, Villejuif Cedex, France; Sevil Yasar, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Aug. 1, 2018,BMJ, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Drinking Beer, Toking Up and Driving With Adams County Deputies

It’s never a good idea to smoke weed in front of a police officer, let alone get behind the wheel right after — but that’s exactly what people were doing with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, July 16.

During this truly unique event, Adams County sheriff’s deputies invited participants to drink beers, smoke joints and then test their driving skills in order to determine how impaired they really were. The challenge was the brainchild of cannabis consulting firm Dacorum Strategies, which partnered with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Lyft and Colorado NORML to raise awareness about driving while impaired.

Drivers were split into three groups, with one designated for cannabis consumption, one for alcohol, and another for texting while driving. Each driver smoked a joint or drank a pot-infused soda with ten milligrams of THC, or had a beer, or texted while driving with a driving instructor, while observers counted the number of cones hit by their cars. After the cannabis and alcohol users were done with each round of driving, an Adams County sheriff’s deputy conducted a roadside impairment test.

“I think there are a lot of myths about what marijuana impairment looks like and what it does behind the wheel,” says Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh. “It’s an education process, and it doesn’t matter what side of the legalization argument you’re on. For law enforcement, it’s our job to ensure the safety of our community.”

The sale of recreational cannabis has been legal in Colorado for over four years, but state and local law enforcement agencies continue to struggle with how to identify drivers who are impaired from cannabis use. Because cannabis can’t be measured through saliva or breath, as alcohol can be, cannabis DUI charges strongly depend on subjective roadside testing.

The driving challenge took place at the Adams County Sheriff's Flatrock Training Facility.EXPAND

The driving challenge took place at the Adams County Sheriff’s Flatrock Training Facility.

Thomas Mitchell

McIntosh considers alcohol and cannabis consumption major safety risks for Colorado drivers. While he says he believes that texting while driving is even more dangerous, the sheriff also thinks that new consumption methods and the potency of legal cannabis products have created big misconceptions about the safety of driving while stoned. Even worse, most of the drivers who are pulled over in Adams County for texting, drinking or consuming cannabis tend to be mixing one violation with another, according to McIntosh.

“It’s all pretty fascinating to find out, as we’re still in this experimental stage,” McIntosh explains. “People are a little freaked out that the cops are hanging out with people as they smoke or drink beer and then drive — but they’re not as afraid as they used to be. It’s easier to talk about it now.”

Dacorum Strategies founder Todd Mitchem says he was motivated to organize an event like this after the Colorado Department of Transportation released a study in April that said nearly 70 percent of cannabis users admitted to driving while high in the past year. Mitchem enlisted the help of his friends at My 420 Tours — a cannabis tourism company that drives buses for social cannabis consumption — to enroll a handful of driving guinea pigs, while Lyft provided free rides home for the alcohol and cannabis users after the event was over.

According to Mitchem, the texting drivers performed the worst on the course, hitting the most cones while driving. They were followed by cannabis users, then alcohol drinkers. But Mitchem also points out that cannabis users passed most of their initial roadside impairment tests by sheriff deputies, while alcohol users routinely failed them despite having performing better on the driving course.

“People were a little bit more nervous while driving on the cannabis side. They were slower to respond to directions in the car from [the instructor]. They’d be confused about where exactly they were going. People didn’t feel impaired, but they clearly were, even though most of them passed roadside tests,” Mitchem says. “The alcohol drivers would pass the course part of the test, but when it was time for the field sobriety test, they’d be obliterated.”

Alcohol users were more confident and tended to drive faster, he notes, while cannabis users were “overly focused” for much of the time. “People were either stoned or drunk. It was just ludicrous — as we expected,” he concludes.  “I think a lot of the marijuana folks were kind of in denial about how impaired they were. If you’re a tourist or a brand-new consumer, that risk is just not worth it.”

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Binge Drinking: A Hazard for Teen Bones?

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Teen girls who regularly toss back four or five alcoholic drinks may be setting themselves up for a lifetime of lower bone density, new research suggests.

The study of college women included some who reported regularly binge drinking during high school and in the first year of college. That means downing four or more alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period.

“We found that for those who were the heaviest binge drinkers, bone health wasn’t as good as it was for those who had not been heavy binge drinkers in high school. And we saw that even after we accounted for other factors that could affect bone health,” said the study’s lead author, Joseph LaBrie. He’s a professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

“If you don’t reach peak bone mass, you may not recognize it. But especially in women, a lack of bone density can be really important later when you might develop brittle bones, osteoporosis and have fractures,” he said.

Women’s bone mass reaches its peak density when a woman is between 20 and 25 years old. After this, bone mass gradually declines throughout the lifespan. So anything that interrupts the production of bone before this peak may contribute to a lower bone density throughout life, according to the researchers.

This could be critical in older age when fractures from the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis disable many adults.

The study included 87 women between 18 and 20 years old. Sixty percent were white.

Eighteen fell into the heaviest regular binge-drinking category. The study defined heavy binge drinking as more than 115 episodes since the start of high school, or almost twice a month on average.

All had bone scans to measure their bone density.

The researchers controlled the data to account for other factors that could affect bone development, such as weight, physical activity and contraceptive use.

The investigators found that women who were regular binge drinkers had lower bone density in their spines. However, the study could not prove cause and effect.

Continued

Dr. Caroline Messer is an endocrinologist specializing in bone loss at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Over the years, studies have shown that high intake of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures. Excessive drinking during adolescence is particularly deleterious because the teenage years are crucial for the development of peak bone density,” said Messer.

Alcohol intake of more than 2 to 3 ounces daily can result in decreased bone density for a variety of reasons, she explained, including interference with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D.

Alcohol also lowers estrogen levels. “Estrogen is important for the proper growth and development of bones, particularly in the spine. This may explain the finding of lower mass in the spine in college-aged women who were binge drinking regularly,” Messer said. She was not involved in the study.

Heavy levels of alcohol consumption also cause several changes that encourage the breakdown of bone, she added.

The researchers didn’t look at the effects of binge drinking and bone density in men, but LaBrie said he suspects the findings would be similar in males.

There are some differences in hormones and the timing of puberty in men and women, LaBrie noted, but “a similar dynamic is probably going on with men.”

The study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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Sources

SOURCES: Joseph LaBrie, Ph.D., professor, psychology, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; Caroline Messer, M.D., endocrinologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; May 2018,Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Resolutions to Cut Drinking May Be Tough to Keep

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — New Year’s resolutions to curb drinking are likely made with the best intentions. But wishful thinking often isn’t enough, a new survey suggests.

The survey, of nearly 3,000 “higher-risk” drinkers, found that roughly 20 percent wanted to cut back in the near future. But six months later, there were no signs that their motivations had turned into action.

On average, all of the study participants were drinking a little less at that point. But those who’d said they were motivated to cut back hadn’t reduced their drinking any more than the others, the researchers found.

Experts said the findings are not necessarily surprising.

Many people say that when they’ve tried to cut down on drinking, they quickly revert to their “normal pattern,” said Frank de Vocht, lead researcher on the study.

“Our study shows that this is, indeed, the case,” said de Vocht, a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom.

Linda Richter directs policy research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, in New York City. She agreed that motivation is often not enough on its own.

Alcohol affects the brain and body in many ways,” said Richter, who was not involved in the study. “And just being motivated to reduce your drinking — or even deciding to cut back — usually is not sufficient in the face of all the physiological, social and environmental cues that promote alcohol use.”

Instead, she said, people typically need a specific plan of action. That can range from having the support of family and friends, to professional counseling.

The findings, from a survey of 2,928 U.K. adults, were reported Jan. 25 in the journal Addiction.

All were considered to be higher-risk drinkers as measured on a standard questionnaire. Their drinking habits ranged from “just above” what’s considered a healthy limit, all the way up to possible alcohol dependence, according to de Vocht.

If people choose to drink, health guidelines generally advise that men should average no more than two drinks a day, while women should limit themselves to one a day.

Continued

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavier drinking carries roughly $ 250 billion in economic costs and kills about 88,000 Americans each year.

In the survey, around one in five drinkers said they wanted to cut down. Six months later, that group was drinking a little less on average — but so were the other survey respondents.

In fact, the “motivated” drinkers were still drinking more than their counterparts who hadn’t expressed any intention to cut back.

It’s impossible to know why, exactly, drinking levels dipped overall, Richter said.

“But,” she said, “just participating in this study might have made people more aware of the extent of their own drinking.”

How can you know whether you should cut down?

In the United States, Richter said, one definition of “at-risk” drinking is downing more than the one-to-two a day limit for women and men, respectively. It’s also defined as more than four drinks on any given day for men, and more than three for women.

Those people may or may not meet the criteria for diagnosing alcohol dependence or abuse, Richter said. And they may be able to try cutting down on their own before seeking professional help.

Richter pointed to some tactics suggested by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Among them: keep track of how much you drink; avoid people and places that encourage you to drink; find hobbies and new activities to replace some of the time you usually devote to drinking.

But, Richter said, “it’s also important to note that there is no need to hit ‘rock bottom’ before seeking help from a trained medical professional or therapist for risky alcohol use or potential addiction.”

Simply having a “willingness to change” might be sufficient for certain drinkers, de Vocht said. But, based on this survey, it’s typically not enough.

For those people, he said, it might be helpful to get a friend or family member to join them in changing their drinking habits. There are also smartphone apps that help people monitor their drinking, which could prove useful, he noted.

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Sources

SOURCES: Frank de Vocht, Ph.D., senior lecturer, epidemiology and public health research, University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K.; Linda Richter, Ph.D., director, policy research and analysis, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, New York City; Jan. 25, 2018,Addiction, online

Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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