Lifecourse Drinking Patterns, Hypertension, and Heart Problems Among U.S. Adults
Understanding the role of alcohol in hypertension and heart problems requires a lifecourse perspective accounting for alcohol use patterns before onset of health problems that distinguishes between lifetime abstinence and former alcohol use, prior versus current alcohol use, and overall alcohol consumption in conjunction with heavy episodic alcohol use. Using prospective data among U.S. adults aged 21–55 years, this study accounts for these lifecourse factors to investigate the effect of alcohol on hypertension and heart problems.
Data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, aged 14–21 years in 1979 and followed through 2012 (n=8,289), were analyzed in 2017–18 to estimate hypertension and heart problems onset from lifecourse alcohol use patterns. Discrete-time survival models stratified by sex and race/ethnicity, controlling for demographics and time-varying factors of employment, smoking, and obesity.
Elevated risks for hypertension were found for women alcohol use >14 units/week regardless of any heavy alcohol use (AOR=1.57, p=0.023) and for men engaged in risky alcohol use (15–28 units/week) together with monthly heavy alcohol use (AOR=1.64, p=0.016). Having a history of weekly heavy alcohol use elevated the risk for women but not for men. No significant relationship was evident for alcohol and heart problems onset.
This study confirms previous findings of increased hypertension risk from higher volume and heavier alcohol use patterns among women and men but did not find any support for increased heart problems risk, which may be due to the younger age profile of the sample. Further research that incorporates lifecourse alcohol use patterns is needed to better understand the alcohol–health relationship.