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Circulation. 2007 Jan 2;115(1):34-9. Epub 2006 Nov 27.

Alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians' Health Study I.

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Division of Aging, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 1620 Tremont St, 3rd Floor, Boston MA 02120, USA.



Heart failure (HF) is the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly, and 1 in 5 adults aged 40 years will develop HF in their lifetime. Data on the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the risk of HF have been sparse and inconsistent. This study sought to evaluate the association between moderate alcohol consumption and incident HF.


A total of 21,601 participants of the Physicians' Health Study I who were free of HF and provided data on alcohol intake at baseline were prospectively followed up from 1982 to 2005. Incident HF cases were ascertained through annual follow-up questionnaires and validated with the use of Framingham criteria. During an average follow-up of 18.4 years, 904 incident cases of HF occurred. The crude incidence rates of HF were 25.0, 20.0, 24.3, and 20.6 cases per 10,000 person-years for alcohol categories of <1, 1 to 4, 5 to 7, and >7 drinks per week, respectively. Corresponding hazard ratios (95% CI) were 1.0 (reference), 0.90 (0.76 to 1.07), 0.84 (0.71 to 0.99), and 0.62 (0.41 to 0.96), respectively, with P for trend=0.012 adjusted for age, body mass index, smoking, and history of valvular heart disease. There was no evidence for a strong association between moderate alcohol consumption and HF without antecedent coronary artery disease.


Although heavy drinking should be discouraged, our data indicate that moderate drinking may lower the risk of HF. The lack of an association between moderate alcohol intake and HF without antecedent coronary artery disease suggests that possible benefits of moderate drinking on HF may be mediated through beneficial effects of alcohol on coronary artery disease.

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