Most studies suggest that alcohol use decreases the risk of coronary heart disease in men, however, this association has not been well established in women.
This study investigates the relationship between alcohol use and ischemic heart disease (IHD) incidence among women aged 45 to 74 years in the Epidemiologic Followup Study of the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The cohort was free of heart disease at baseline. During the follow-up period (mean, 13 years), 884 IHD cases were identified through hospital records, reported hospital stays, or death certificates.
Women reporting any amount of alcohol use had about a 20% decrease in risk of IHD incidence compared with abstainers. Using a Cox regression model to adjust for known cardiovascular risk factors, this relative risk of IHD remained essentially unchanged. The greatest reduction in the risk of IHD (36% to 39%) was among women who consumed about half to two drinks per day compared with abstainers.
This study of a nationally representative sample with a mean follow-up of 13 years and a substantial number of IHD cases suggests that moderate alcohol use decreases the risk of IHD. However, the risk and benefits of moderate alcohol consumption need to be viewed within a broader perspective especially since the potentially harmful effects of alcohol have been well documented.(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:1211-1216)