Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Mid-life alcohol intake linked to stiffening of the aorta

2 March 2017

Whitehall II data show that our alcohol intake pattern during mid-life is linked to stiffening of the main artery (the aorta) in early old age, especially amongst males.

At a given age, a stiffer aorta is a marker of biological ageing and raised heart attack and stroke risk. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and received a lot of coverage in national and international media.

Drinking above the recommended limits (14 units per week, roughly 7 pints of beer or 7 glasses of wine or 14 standard 25 gram servings of spirits) was linked with stiffer arteries, compared to moderate drinking.

Intake was measured over 25 years. For reasons which may in part be connected with giving up alcohol due to illness, former drinkers had an accelerated rate of arterial stiffening. Our study adds to the evidence that lifestyle in mid-life is an important influence on health and well-being in later life.

The study is available here:

Twenty‐Five‐Year Alcohol Consumption Trajectories and Their Association With Arterial Aging: A Prospective Cohort StudyDarragh O'Neill, Annie Britton, Eric J. Brunner and Steven Bell. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2017; 6:e005288. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.116.005288


Links to media coverage stories:

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-alcohol-hearts-idUSKBN1632DY

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4243746/How-just-one-pint-day-increase-risk-heart-disease.html

The Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/2913873/drinking-more-than-a-pint-a-day-puts-men-at-higher-risk-of-heart-attack-or-stroke/

Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2017/02/27/for-men-heavy-drinking-may-damage-hearts-over-time.html