Wine Reduces Leg Arterial Disease

A couple of glass of wine a day may be good for circulation in the legs, according to a study published in the Jan. 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology .

According to the research, those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol showed a lower risk than non-drinkers of developing lower extremity arterial disease (LEAD), a condition in which the blood vessels in the leg become damaged.

Several previous studies have already shown that light to moderate drinkers have lower risks of heart disease than non-drinkers. But not much has been done to study the effect of alcohol consumption and LEAD.

In people suffering with LEAD, the inner lining of the arterial blood vessels in the legs becomes damaged, potentially leading to a build-up of cholesterol, which can impede blood flow and harden the tissue, creating atherosclerosis. As LEAD progresses, the blocked arteries can cause discomfort, cramps or pain in the hips, thighs or calves, especially while exercising.

'LEAD affects about 10 to 15 percent of older adults and is increasingly recognized to have consequences beyond the classic pain with walking,' says alcohol-and-health researcher Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, who led the study.

Data relating to 5,635 participants who took part in an earlier Cardiovascular Health Study, conducted from 1989 to 1999 examining Medicare-eligible adults living in four different U.S. areas was pulled out.

The subjects had reported their weekly drinking habits, and were classified as consuming less than one drink per week, one to 13 per week or 14 or more drinks per week. During the course of the study, the volunteers underwent leg-artery examinations by clinicians using a standard test that measures blood pressure at the ankle both before and after a five-minute treadmill workout.

A total of 172 cases of LEAD were documented during the study. Mukamal and his team then compared those cases to the drinking habits of the study's participants.

The researchers found that those who drank one to 13 servings of alcohol per week were 44 percent less likely to develop LEAD than non-drinkers. Those who drank less than one drink per week or 14 drinks per week or more showed a similar LEAD risk as non-drinkers.

Dr. Curt Ellison, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University Medical School, who first gained prominence when he appeared on '60 Minutes' with Prof Serge Renaud when 'The French Paradox' was coined, is not surprised with the results. He has been involved in several studies which have demonstrated the positive benefits for heart with moderate wine drinking. Talking of the latest Mukamal study he said, "These findings support many other papers suggesting that moderate alcohol intake may lower the risk of vascular disease at sites other than the heart and the brain."

Mukamal noted that LEAD and the potential preventive measures are only now coming in the radar screen of the medical research community; the number of cases being diagnosed is on the rise. As has become a standard clause with such studies, he cautioned that more research is needed among people with LEAD.




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