• Alcohol;
  • drinking pattern;
  • epidemiology;
  • myocardial infarction;
  • women


Aims  Evidence continues to emerge indicating the pattern of alcohol consumption has important implications for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, although the majority of studies have focused on men. The aim of the study is to examine the association between alcohol volume and various drinking patterns and non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) in women aged 35–69 years.

Design and setting  Population-based case–control study, 1996–2001.

Participants  Incident MI cases (n = 320) recruited from Western NY hospitals, controls (n = 1565) identified from motor vehicle rolls and Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) files.

Measurements  Incident MI, volume and drinking patterns for the 12–24 months prior to interview (controls) or MI (cases) were assessed in detail.

Findings  Of cases and controls, 13% were life-time abstainers; current drinkers averaged 2.3 ± 2.2 drinks/drinking day. Compared to life-time abstainers, current drinkers tended to have a reduced likelihood of MI [odds ratio (OR), 0.67; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.43–1.03]. Volume, drinks/drinking day and frequency were associated inversely with MI risk (P trends < 0.001). Wine drinkers (OR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.33–0.96) and consumers of mixed beverage types (OR, 0.56, 0.31–1.01) had lower odds of MI compared to abstainers. Among current drinkers, for volume and most patterns, similar but somewhat weaker associations were noted than when abstainers were the reference. In contrast, frequency of intoxication at least once/month or more was associated with a strong increased risk compared to abstention (OR, 2.90; 95% CI 1.01–8.29) or in current drinkers, never drinking to this extent (OR, 6.22; 95% CI 2.07–18.69).

Conclusion  In this population of light to moderate drinkers, alcohol consumption in general was associated with decreased MI risk in women; however, episodic intoxication was related to a substantial increase in risk.