2008 Katharine A. Lembright Award and Lecture—The Effects of Alcohol and Tobacco Smoke on the Cardiovascular System
More than half of Americans aged 12 years or older (125 million people) report being current alcohol (ethanol) drinkers. Twenty-five percent of U.S. adults have an alcohol use problem or drinking pattern that places them at risk for developing social, psychological, and medical problems. In both sexes, long-term heavy alcohol consumption is a leading cause of a dilated cardiomyopathy (CM) phenotype, characterized by an enlarged myocardium with systolic dysfunction. The mechanisms that underlie these myocardial changes remain incompletely understood, but likely involve oxidative stress, myocyte loss, and intracellular organelle dysfunction. Interestingly, though CM occurs in women, there are discrepancies regarding the duration/amount of alcohol consumption required to produce structural and functional changes in the female myocardium.
Binge drinking is associated with a number of adverse health effects. However, there is limited information regarding the effects of binge drinking on the cardiovascular system. Binge and chronic drinking are also often accompanied by cigarette smoking; both drinking and smoking are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Of particular concern is that among U.S. college students (individuals with the highest rates of binge drinking), cigarette smoking is increasing.
This lecture will focus on the adverse effects of alcohol consumption on the cardiovascular system. Determining what cardiovascular effects are attributable to unhealthy drinking patterns, cigarette smoking, and their combination will be critical for understanding and treating cardiovascular disorders in alcohol abusers and cigarette smokers.