21 February 2020 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Problem drinking carries significant health burdens, including an increased risk of hypertension. The effect of chronic alcohol intake on blood pressure (BP) in women is understudied and poorly understood.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to examine the relationships between drinking habits and BP in hypertensive women. METHODS: We analyzed drinking habits in 113 women followed in the Brigham and Women's Hospital Hypertension Clinic for at least one year.

RESULTS: Among these women with well-controlled hypertension, baseline diastolic BP was significantly lower in moderate drinkers compared with women who rarely or never drank. Changes in both systolic and diastolic BP over 12 months showed a significant negative association with changes in percent drinking days. In contrast, there was a trend toward higher baseline systolic BP among those women who consumed more drinks per drinking day.

CONCLUSIONS: Among these women with controlled hypertension, our data failed to demonstrate an association between drinking beyond recommended limits and higher disease burden. These findings parallel the widely reported difference between drinking frequency, associated with a host of positive health outcomes, and drinking intensity, associated with negative outcomes. Novel to this report is an observed reduction in blood pressure over the one-year follow-up period accompanying an increased drinking frequency in treated hypertensive women. Cautions include the suggestion that a greater number of drinks per drinking day was associated with higher baseline pressure. These data imply that drinking within sensible limits has no negative impact on chronic hypertension. In fact, for women with well-controlled hypertension, such a habit may impart benefit

21 February 2020 In General Health

The primary aim of this systematic review was to establish the prevalence, character, and risk factors of peripheral neuropathy amongst chronic alcohol abusers and to identify the most appropriate management strategies.

In this review, possible pathogenetic mechanisms are also discussed. A systematic, computer-based search was conducted using the PubMed database. Data regarding the above parameters were extracted. 87 articles were included in this review, 29 case-control studies, 52 prospective/retrospective cohort studies and 2 randomised control trials, 1 cross sectional study, and 3 population-based studies.

The prevalence of peripheral neuropathy amongst chronic alcohol abusers is 46.3% (CI 35.7- 57.3%) when confirmed via nerve conduction studies. Alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy generally presents as a progressive, predominantly sensory axonal length-dependent neuropathy.

The most important risk factor for alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy is the total lifetime dose of ethanol, although other risk factors have been identified including genetic, male gender, and type of alcohol consumed. At present, it is unclear what the pathogenetic mechanisms for the development of neuropathy amongst those who chronically abuse alcohol are, and therefore, it is unknown whether it is attributed to the direct toxic effects of ethanol or another currently unidentified factor.

There is presently sparse data to support a particular management strategy in alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy, but the limited data available appears to support the use of vitamin supplementation, particularly of B-vitamin regimens inclusive of thiamine

21 February 2020 In General Health

This article explores the contentious definition and communication of alcohol consumption limits and their relationship to ideas about risk through an analysis of the development of health education materials during the 1980s.

It argues that changing ideas about alcohol and risk, and their communication to the public, were a reflection of both specific developments in thinking about alcohol and the harm it could pose as well as broader shifts within public health policy, practice and outlook.

Risk was understood as something experienced by individuals and populations, a conceptual framing that suggested different approaches. To get to grips with these issues, the article focuses on: (1) the definition of alcohol consumption limits; (2) the communication of these limits; and (3) the limits to limits.

The problems experienced in defining and communicating limits suggests not only a ‘limit to limits’ but also to the entire notion of risk-based ‘sensible’ drinking as a strategy for health education.

24 January 2020 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Alcohol-related harm has been found to be higher in disadvantaged groups, despite similar alcohol consumption to advantaged groups. This is known as the alcohol harm paradox. Beverage type is reportedly socioeconomically patterned but has not been included in longitudinal studies investigating record-linked alcohol consumption and harm. We aimed to investigate whether and to what extent consumption by beverage type, BMI, smoking and other factors explain inequalities in alcohol-related harm.

METHODS: 11,038 respondents to the Welsh Health Survey answered questions on their health and lifestyle. Responses were record-linked to wholly attributable alcohol-related hospital admissions (ARHA) eight years before the survey month and until the end of 2016 within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. We used survival analysis, specifically multi-level and multi-failure Cox mixed effects models, to calculate the hazard ratios of ARHA. In adjusted models we included the number of units consumed by beverage type and other factors, censoring for death or moving out of Wales.

RESULTS: People living in more deprived areas had a higher risk of admission (HR 1.75; 95% CI 1.23-2.48) compared to less deprived. Adjustment for the number of units by type of alcohol consumed only reduced the risk of ARHA for more deprived areas by 4% (HR 1.72; 95% CI 1.21-2.44), whilst adding smoking and BMI reduced these inequalities by 35.7% (HR 1.48; 95% CI 1.01-2.17). These social patterns were similar for individual-level social class, employment, housing tenure and highest qualification. Inequalities were further reduced by including either health status (16.6%) or mental health condition (5%). Unit increases of spirits drunk were positively associated with increasing risk of ARHA (HR 1.06; 95% CI 1.01-1.12), higher than for other drink types.

CONCLUSIONS: Although consumption by beverage type was socioeconomically patterned, it did not help explain inequalities in alcohol-related harm. Smoking and BMI explained around a third of inequalities, but lower socioeconomic groups had a persistently higher risk of (multiple) ARHA. Comorbidities also explained a further proportion of inequalities and need further investigation, including the contribution of specific conditions. The increased harms from consumption of stronger alcoholic beverages may inform public health policy.

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