A little alcohol goes a longer way in women than in men

November 09, 2017

Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol's long-term effects, reports the October 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Women break down alcohol more slowly than men do. If a woman and a man drink identical glasses of wine with the same meal, she will have a higher blood level of alcohol, and for a longer time. This means her tissues are exposed to more alcohol per drink than a man's. Results from a study in Japan suggest that too much alcohol is bad for a woman's heart and arteries, and earlier work shows it can be hazardous to breast tissue too.

What constitutes "healthy drinking"? Current guidelines say it is one to two drinks a day for men and no more than one a day for women, notes the Harvard Heart Letter. Keep in mind that this recommendation is for the average person. How you respond to alcohol depends on your genes, your diet, and the medications you take.

If you drink, consider taking a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Alcohol blocks the absorption of folic acid and inactivates this important vitamin in the bloodstream, so drinkers need extra folic acid.

Also in this issue:

Dial 911 to start treating heart attack Checking blood pressure at the ankle Less invasive valve surgery speeds recovery Coffee and good health CT scans may interfere with pacemakers The power of potassium Can blood pressure medicines change the sense of taste? How is a blocked stent fixed?

The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


Dr. Choi noted that, "OCT detected most of the major and minor characteristics of vulnerable plaque, including the thin cap with large lipid core, and it has the ability to detect thrombus and fissured plaque at a level that is four to five times better than that of other modalities. Because of OCT's high resolution capabilities, which is almost 10 times greater than with IVUS and related modalities, it can assess this tissue more accurately than other imaging methods."

As a result, researchers said OCT may provide a better understanding of the natural progression of coronary artery disease. For example, stenosis or erosion of endothelial cells with plaque could be detected even in patients with stable angina.

"That finding is something that we had never experienced before; we should study more the clinical implication of these findings," Dr. Choi said. "New evolving OCT imaging is moving closer to becoming a powerful diagnostic tool that will provide new insights into the etiology and treatment of coronary artery disease."

The current OCT technology does have some limitations, though. It needs a blood-clear zone and a low penetrating depth to be most effective. However, the procedure is safe and can be performed in a cath lab.


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