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Sunday, 21 February 2016
Fewer heart problems in people who drink
Fewer heart problems in people who drink moderately but often
People who drink wine, liquor or beer regularly are less prone to heart failure and heart attacks than those who rarely or never drink. Three to five drinks a week can be good for your heart.
“It’s primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol, among other things. But alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it’s best to drink moderate amounts relatively often,” he says.
Cheers! More good cholesterol thanks to the alcohol in your drink = good for the heart. Photo: Thinkstock
In both cases, research shows that people who regularly drink alcohol have better cardiovascular health than those who consume little or no alcohol. Unikard, a Norwegian organization that focuses on cardiovascular research, is also discussing these findings.
The studies showed that those who drank three to five drinks per week were 33 per cent less prone to heart failure than those who abstained or drank infrequently. In the case of heart attacks, the risk appears to be reduced by 28 percent with each additional one-drink increment.
“The relationship between alcohol and heart health has been studied in many countries, including the USA and southern European nations. The conclusions have been the same, but the drinking patterns in these countries are very different than in Norway. In countries like France and Italy, very few people don’t drink,” says Janszky. “It raises the question as to whether earlier findings can be fully trusted, if other factors related to non-drinkers might have influenced research results. It may be that these are people who previously had alcohol problems, and who have stopped drinking completely,” he says.
For this reason, the researchers wanted to examine the theory with a Norwegian population where a significant population drinks rarely or not at all. In the myocardial infarction study, 41 per cent of participants reported that they did not drink at all or that they consumed less than half of one alcoholic beverage per week.
Both studies are based on the longitudinal HUNT 2 Nord-Trøndelag Health Study conducted between 1995 and 1997.
The greater the drinking frequency, the lower the risk
The study, which looked at the relationship between heart failure and alcohol, followed 60,665 participants until the end of 2008 with no incidence of heart failure. Of those, 1588 of them developed heart failure during the period of the study. The risk was highest for those who rarely or never drank alcohol, and for those who had an alcohol problem.
The more often participants consumed alcohol within normal amounts, the lower their risk of heart failure turned out to be. Those who drank five or more times a month had a 21 per cent lower risk compared to non-drinkers and those who drank little, while those who drank between one and five times a month had a two per cent lower risk.
“I’m not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time. We’ve only been studying the heart, and it’s important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart,” says Janszky.
In the heart attack study, 58,827 participants were categorized by how much and how often they drank. 2966 of the participants experienced an acute myocardial infarction between 1995 and the end of 2008. The adjusted analyses showed that each additional one-drink increment decreased the risk of AMI by 28 percent.
Alcohol may increase other problems
The researchers stressed that few participants in the study drank particularly much, so they cannot conclude that high alcohol intake protects against heart attack or heart failure. They also encourage looking at the findings in a larger context, since the risk of a number of other diseases and social problems can increase as a result of higher alcohol consumption.
For example, the researchers observed that the risk of dying from various types of cardiovascular disease increased with about five drinks a week and up, while those who drank more moderate amounts had the lowest risk. High alcohol consumption was also strongly associated with an increased risk of death from liver disease.