Alcohol Consumption and Ultrasonographically Assessed Carotid Artery Wall Thickness and Distensibility

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Abstract

Background.

Although much has been written in recent years about the relation between alcohol and atherosclerotic disease, controversy exists as to whether and how alcohol exerts an effect on atherosclerosis in different sites.

Methods and Results.

We tested the hypothesis that alcohol consumption is associated inversely with carotid atherosclerosis in a population sample of 45- to 64-year-old men and women who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and were free of cardiovascular disease at a baseline examination in 1987 to 1989. B-mode ultrasonography was used to determine carotid artery intimal-medial wall thickness and distensibility as indices of the degree of atherosclerosis. The level of alcohol consumption in the ARIC sample was generally low. Age-adjusted mean values of alcohol consumed (grams per week) were 72.0 for white and 743 for nonwhite men and 24.8 for white and 11.2 for nonwhite women. After adjustments for age, artery depth, education, body mass index, sport index, cigarette-years of smoking, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus, there was no significant cross-sectional association of reported current alcohol intake with either carotid artery wall thickness (among white and nonwhite men and nonwhite women) or distensibility (in any of the four sex-race groups). Among white women, the adjusted mean value of carotid artery wall thickness tended to be higher in light to moderate drinkers than in never or rare drinkers, but the difference across drinking status categories was of borderline statistical significance (P=.04) and may be of little biological importance.

Conclusions.

The ARIC Study found no material cross-sectional association between current alcohol intake and carotid atherosclerosis but provides an opportunity in the future to study atherosclerosis progression and incident events in relation to alcohol consumption in a large population sample of men and women. (Circulation.1993;88:2787–2793.)

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