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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease—Modulation of Vascular Cell Function

Alcohol is a commonly used drug worldwide. Epidemiological studies have identified alcohol consumption as a factor that may either positively or negatively influence many diseases including cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and dementia.

Often there seems to be a differential effect of various drinking patterns, with frequent moderate consumption of alcohol being salutary and binge drinking or chronic abuse being deleterious to one’s health.

A better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating the many effects of alcohol consumption is beginning to emerge, as well as a clearer picture as to whether these effects are due to the direct actions of alcohol itself, or caused in part by its metabolites, e.g., acetaldehyde, or by incidental components present in the alcoholic beverage (e.g., polyphenols in red wine).

This review will discuss evidence to date as to how alcohol (ethanol) might affect atherosclerosis that underlies cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, and the putative mechanisms involved, focusing on vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cell effects.

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