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Heavy Drinking Tied to Larger Waist Lines, Higher Stroke Risk

Higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors seen even for those who stop drinking heavily by age 50

WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Heavy drinkers who continue drinking into old age have significantly larger waistlines and increased stroke risk, according to a study published online March 31 in Addiction.

Linda Ng Fat, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues used data from 4,820 drinkers (aged 59 to 83 years) participating in the 2011 to 2012 Whitehall II Study survey. Hazardous drinking was defined as having an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test for Consumption score ≥5, with participants classified as never hazardous drinker, former early hazardous drinker (stopping before 50 years), former later hazardous drinker (stopping after age 50), current hazardous drinker, or consistent hazardous drinker (hazardous drinker at each decade of life).

The researchers found that more than half of the sample had been hazardous drinkers at some point during their lifetime: 19 percent former early, 11 percent former later, 21 percent current, and 5 percent consistent hazardous drinkers. Waist circumference was larger with more persistent hazardous drinking compared with never hazardous drinkers in an adjusted analysis (former early: +1.17 cm; former later: +1.88 cm; current: +2.44 cm; and consistent: +3.85 cm). Compared with never hazardous drinkers, current hazardous drinkers had higher systolic blood pressure (2.44 mm Hg) and fatty liver index scores (4.05). Current hazardous drinkers also had an elevated risk for stroke (hazard ratio, 2.75), while former later hazardous drinkers had an elevated risk for noncardiovascular disease mortality (hazard ratio, 1.93) versus never hazardous drinkers.

“Hazardous drinking may increase cardiometabolic risk factors; this is made worse by persistent hazardous drinking throughout life, particularly in relation to weight gain, suggesting benefits of early intervention,” the authors write.

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