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Alcohol Health Res World. 1997;21(1):21-9.

Alcohol and the cardiovascular system: molecular mechanisms for beneficial and harmful action.

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Biomedical Research Branch, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Alcohol can be beneficial or harmful to the cardiovascular system, depending on the amount consumed and the characteristics of the consumer. Of the numerous cellular and molecular mechanisms that are thought to explain the beneficial effects of moderate drinking, this article discusses four, involving (1) high density lipoproteins, (2) cellular signaling, (3) platelet function in blood clot formation, and (4) stimulation of blood clot dissolution. Although light-to-moderate drinking can protect against coronary artery disease, heavy alcohol consumption can damage the cardiovascular system, resulting in maladies such as heart muscle disorders, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and strokes. This article summarizes representative epidemiological and animal studies on these cardiovascular consequences of chronic heavy alcohol consumption and reviews mechanisms that have been suggested to explain alcohol's effects.

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