Shocking pictures show the difference between a healthy heart and the heart of someone who drinks too much.
It shows the enlarged heart of someone suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM), which causes the heart to swell and lose the ability to properly pump blood around the body.
The deadly condition is triggered by drinking more than 70 units a week, roughly seven bottles of wine, for five years or more.
In severe cases the condition can be fatal or require a heart transplant.
But now experts have discovered that around 13.5 per cent of ACM sufferers carry a faulty gene that puts them more at risk of the potentially deadly heart condition.
Study author Dr James Ware, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: “Our research strongly suggests alcohol and genetics are interacting – and genetic predisposition and alcohol consumption can act together to lead to heart failure.
“At the moment this condition is assumed to be simply due to too much alcohol.
“But this research suggests these patients should also be checked for a genetic cause – by asking about a family history and considering testing for a faulty titin gene, as well as other genes linked to heart failure.”
The team of scientists from Imperial College London, Royal Brompton Hospital and MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, analysed 141 patients with ACM.
They found a faulty gene may interact with alcohol to accelerate heart failure in some patients – even if they only drink moderate amounts of alcohol.
Their research looked at faulty versions of a gene called titin, which are carried by one in 100 people or 600,000 people in the UK.
Titin is crucial for maintaining the elasticity of the heart muscle, and faulty versions are linked to a type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy.
But the team discovered that the faulty titin gene may also play a role in ACM.
They found 13.5 per cent of the patients they analysed were found to carry the mutation – much higher than the proportion of people who carry it in the general population.
They said the results suggest the condition is not simply the result of alcohol poisoning, but comes from a genetic predisposition – meaning other family members may be at risk too.
Dr Ware added that relatives of patients with ACM should receive assessment and heart scans.
In some cases genetic testing may be necessary to see if they carry the faulty gene.
In a second part of the study, the researchers looked at whether alcohol may play a role in another type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
This condition causes the heart muscle to become stretched and thin and is caused by a number of things including viral infections and some types of medication.
The condition can also be genetic, and around 12 per cent of cases are thought to be linked to a faulty titin gene.
The team asked 716 patients with DCM how much alcohol they consumed.
They found that in patients whose DCM was caused by the faulty titin gene, even moderately increased alcohol intake affected the heart’s pumping power.
Study co-author Dr Paul Barton, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial, said more research is needed to investigate how alcohol may affect people who carry the faulty titin gene but do not have heart problems.
“Alcohol and the heart have a complicated relationship,” he said.
“While moderate levels may have benefits for heart health, too much can cause serious cardiac problems.
“This research suggests that in people with titin-related heart failure, alcohol may worsen the condition.”
The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The NHS recommends that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
That’s no more than six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine.
Source: The Sun UK