Alcohol and Cardiovascular Risk in Women
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Understanding the many health effects of even moderate alcohol use in women is not an easy task for clinicians. Moderate intake has been consistently linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease in women, perhaps because it consistently increases levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Trials of alcohol use in women have shown that moderate drinking also increases levels of adiponectin, an insulin-sensitizing hormone, and lowers levels of fibrinogen. Recent literature has helped to clarify several aspects of the relationship of alcohol use with coronary heart disease in women, including its consistency across women of various ages and risk levels and the importance of drinking pattern. Counterbalancing the potential cardiovascular benefits are several non-cardiovascular effects of alcohol, particularly its association with higher risk of breast cancer. Navigating these opposing effects requires careful and individualized risk assessment for all women.