Might regular alcohol consumption improve survival after heart failure?

Regular moderate alcohol consumption was associated with increased survival among older adults who were newly-diagnosed heart failure. Their survival rate was better than the rate for patients who abstained from alcohol, say researchers. In this study, the term ‘older patients’ refers to people aged sixty-five years or more.

There have been studies over the years on whether there is an association between heart failure and alcohol consumption. Many of those studies have produced conflicting data.

However, nobody has known how safe it is for newly-diagnosed heart failure patients to consume alcohol. That is, until this latest study.



Heart failure patients who drank alcohol

In this latest study, researchers observed 393 patients. Their findings suggest that patients who drank up to seven alcoholic drinks weekly lived just over one year longer than teetotalers.

After a new diagnosis, average survival among the patients in the study was approximately 7.5 years.

In this study, the researchers did not have information about what caused the patients’ heart failures. They added that they still have to determine what the optimum amount of alcohol consumption is.

Heart Failure and alcohol consumption
In an Abstract that precedes the main article in the journal, the authors wrote: “These findings suggest that older adults who develop heart failure may not need to abstain from moderate levels of alcohol consumption.”

According to a press release by JAMA Network:

“These results should not be interpreted as suggesting that individuals with newly diagnosed heart failure show begin drinking alcohol after their diagnosis if they did not drink previously.”



Senior author, cardiologist David L. Brown, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said:

“My patients who are newly diagnosed with heart failure often ask me if they should stop having that glass of wine every night. And until now, I didn’t have a good answer for them. We have long known that the toxic effects of excessive drinking can contribute to heart failure.”

“In contrast, we have data showing that healthy people who drink moderately seem to have some protection from heart failure over the long term, compared with people who don’t drink at all. But there was very little, if any, data to help us advise people who drink moderately and have just been diagnosed with heart failure.”



They didn’t establish cause and effect

Washington University School of Medicine points out that the study does not establish cause and effect. Therefore, the researchers cannot conclude that moderate drinking is actively protective.

Citation

“Association of Alcohol Consumption After Development of Heart Failure With Survival Among Older Adults in the Cardiovascular Health Study,” Justin S. Sadhu, MD, MPHS; Eric Novak, MS; Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, MPH; Jorge R. Kizer, MD, MSc; Bruce M. Psaty, MD, PhD; Phyllis K. Stein, PhD; and David L. Brown, MD. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(8):e186383. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6383. Related Journal Article.