A pattern of harmful alcohol consumption, or heavy drinking, increases the level of blood biomarkers indicating heart tissue damage, according to a new study.
"By measuring the level of certain molecules in the blood, we were able to find that heavy drinkers are much more likely to have subclinical heart damage than people who drink less heavily," said study author Olena Iakunchykova from the Arctic University of Norway.
For the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers utilised certain signs to define the participants' drinking habits as heavy/harmful: having six or more drinks on one occasion; feeling hungover or drunk; needing a drink first thing in the morning; having experienced adverse consequences in their personal life because of drinking; having a family member or loved one who is concerned about their drinking.
Any or all of these signs were indications of a level of drinking that is damaging to cardiovascular health.
To determine the effects of varying levels of alcohol consumption on the heart, researchers examined blood samples from 2,525 adults, ages 35-69, from the year 2015 to 2018, from the Know Your Heart study.
According to the researchers, 2,479 of the participants were from the general population of Arkhangelsk, a city in Northwest Russia, while the other 278 participants were patients diagnosed with and being treated for alcoholism at the Arkhangelsk Regional Psychiatric Hospital.
The researchers categorised adults based on their self-reported alcohol consumption habits and included those who drank no alcohol, those who consumed alcohol but didn't experience the signs of heavy/harmful drinking, and heavy drinkers who met the criteria for harmful drinking.
Blood samples included three important measures, or biomarkers, of heart health: high sensitivity cardiac Troponin T, a measure of heart injury; N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide, a marker of cardiac wall stretch; and High sensitivity C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.
Researchers found that the hospital patient sample, which had the most extreme drinking pattern, had the highest levels of all three biomarkers, compared to non-problem drinkers in the general population.
The hospital patients' biomarkers for heart injury was 10.3 per cent higher; cardiac wall stretch was 46.7 per cent higher; and inflammation 69.2 per cent higher, compared to non-problem drinkers in the general population, the study said.
According to the study, in the general population sample, the blood marker for cardiac wall stretch was 31.5 percent higher among drinkers with harmful drinking patterns compared to non-problem drinkers.
"Our results suggest that people who drink heavily are creating higher than normal levels of inflammation in their bodies that have been linked to a wide range of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease," Iakunchykova said.