RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Having a drink a day may protect you against heart disease, according to a new large-scale study published in the British Medical Journal last week.
1. Tell us about alcohol and the heart—what do we know?
Previous studies have found a positive relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and heart health. Alcohol consumption has been linked to increases in “good” HDL cholesterol and properties in blood that reduce clotting—thus making heart attack and stroke less likely. It’s also possible that moderate drinking helps reduce your stress levels.
2. What about this new study?
In the latest study, researchers tracked more than 1.9 million healthy British adults and found that having the occasional drink was tied to reductions in the risk of heart attack, sudden heart death, heart failure and stroke, compared to non-drinkers.
In the study, “moderate” drinking was defined as 7 pints of regular beer or 1.5 bottles of wine in one week, researchers said.
Here is what they found:
• Moderate drinkers had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack
• 56 percent lower risk of sudden heart death
• 24 percent lower risk of heart failure
• 12 percent decreased risk of ischemic stroke
However, heavy drinking resulted in the opposite effect. Heavy drinking resulted in increased heart health risks, including a 21 percent higher risk of sudden heart death, a 22 percent higher risk of heart failure, a 50 percent increased risk of cardiac arrest, a 33 percent increased risk of ischemic stroke, and a 37 percent increased risk of bleeding in the brain.
3. What is your advice to patients?
The new study is consistent with earlier studies that have indicated a potential heart health benefit from an occasional drink, but it amplifies the message since it involved millions of patients—the largest study of this kind to date.
Ultimately, it reminds us of the importance of moderation—I would advise patients who do enjoy a glass of wine or beer to remember that it appears that moderate alcohol consumption can have benefits — that moving away from moderation can result in negative health consequences.
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