Heavy drinking leads to deadly heart attacks by causing toxic iron to build up in the body, new research suggests.
Women from regions where alcohol consumption is high have greater iron levels in their bodies and are more likely to die from heart conditions, a UK study found.
Excessive iron levels may cause ‘internal stress’ that results in plaque building up in the arteries.
Alcohol may also suppress the hormone that prevents iron from accumulating.
More than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK live with heart disease, which is a major cause of heart attacks and failure. The condition causes one in every four deaths in the US.
Heavy drinking is generally defined as five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting for men and four for women.
How the research was carried out
The researchers, from Anglia Ruskin University, analysed 877 women with an average age of 50 who were living in sub-Saharan Africa. This region was chosen due to alcohol consumption generally being high.
The women, who were followed for around nine years, completed questionnaires on their alcohol intakes.
Iron levels were assessed by measuring ferritin in the women’s plasma samples. Ferritin stores iron and is a marker of the metal in the body.
During the study’s duration, 105 women died, of which 40 fatalities were heart related.