Want to Live Longer? Study Proves You Must Drink Less Alcohol

A newly released report published in The Lancet suggests it’s time to sober up when it comes to drinking alcohol. The lead author of this study, which was part funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Dr. Angela Wood explained “The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.”

What the research revealed

The report was based on a global study that included data from nearly 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies carried out in 19 countries.

About half the participants reported drinking more than 100g per week, and 8.4% drank more than 350g per week. Early deaths rose when more than 100g per week, which is five to six glasses of wine or pints of beer, was consumed.

The researchers found those drinking more than five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer each week were at greater risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aneurysm. They noted that while alcohol may lower the risk of non-fatal heart attacks, it found that “on balance” there were no health benefits from drinking.

The real impact of alcohol on your longevity  

The study suggests that if you are a 40-year-old regularly drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol per week – about 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer – you will, according to the research lower your life expectancy by around one to two years.

Five standard 175ml glasses of wine or five pints a week is the upper safe limit – about 100g of alcohol, or 12.5 units in total. More than that raises the risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm (a ruptured artery in the chest), heart failure and death.

Alarmingly, those who exceed 350g of alcohol every week, will reduce life expectancy by as much as four to five years.

Dr.Angela Wood Alcohol Report
Dr. Angela Wood

Dr.Tony Rao, visiting lecturer in old age psychiatry at King’s College London, told The Guardian  the study “highlights the need to reduce alcohol related harm in baby boomers, an age group currently at highest risk of rising alcohol misuse.”

The research did not take into account the possibility of mental disorders such as dementia, which could accompany the other health problems drinkers incur.

Some experts even believe drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can be as damaging to your health as smoking.

Tim Chico, is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield.   He told The Guardian that previous evidence shows it is likely that people drinking a lot more than 43 units are likely to lose even more life expectancy, and he would not be surprised if the heaviest drinkers lost as many years of life as a smoker.

Guidelines for the consumption of alcohol

According to The University of Cambridge “The researchers also looked at the association between alcohol consumption and different types of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit. By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks.”

The authors noted that the different relationships between alcohol intake and various types of cardiovascular disease may relate to alcohol’s elevating effects on blood pressure and on factors related to elevated high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (also known as ‘good’ cholesterol). They stressed that the lower risk of non-fatal heart attack must be considered in the context of the increased risk of several other serious and often fatal cardiovascular diseases.

“The study focused on current drinkers to reduce the risk of bias caused by those who abstain from alcohol due to poor health. However, the study used self-reported alcohol consumption and relied on observational data, so no firm conclusions can me made about cause and effect. The study did not look at the effect of alcohol consumption over the life-course or account for people who may have reduced their consumption due to health complications.”

The authors of the study said their findings also challenged the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK’s recently lowered guidelines.

However other countries reportedly still have much higher limits than the UK.  They include Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as the US, where for men the recommended limit is almost double.

Of course, you can be sure many will not be happy to read about these findings.

But as Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) told  the media, “this is a serious wake-up call for many countries.”