Alcohol abuse is a greater CVD risk in those who don’t have traditional risk factors

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  • Alcohol abuse adds as much risk for atrial fibrillation (Afib), myocardial infarction (MI), and congestive HF (CHF) as do traditional risk factors and even more so for people who do not have these other risk factors.

Why this matters  

  • Studies of alcohol’s effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD) are a mixed cocktail of conflicting results, but if it is a risk factor for CVD, unlike genetic risks, eg, it can be modified.

Key results 

  • About 2% of the patient population had alcohol abuse diagnosis.
  • With alcohol abuse, adjusted HR for Afib was 2.14 (P<.0001); adjusted HR for MI was 1.45 (P<.0001); adjusted HR for CHF was 2.34 (P<.0001).
  • Patients who did not have traditional CVD risk factors for the respective diseases actually had a greater risk from alcohol abuse.
  • For patients with CVD risk factors, the risk with alcohol abuse was about the same as with traditional factors.

Study design

  • 14,727,591 California residents attending ambulatory procedural units/emergency departments/inpatient; data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.
  • 268,084 had alcohol abuse diagnosis.
  • Incident Afib, CHF, MI were analyzed.
  • Funding: Funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.


  • Usual limitations of coding data.
  • Some factors, like diet, were not possible to assess.
  • No outpatient encounters were included.