Alcohol And Heart Health

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Michael White, professor and department head from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, talks about some of the heart health benefits of drinking alcohol.

Below are some questions with answers provided by White.

Does drinking alcohol really reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke?

If you drink alcohol in moderation, one drink per day for women or one or two drinks per day for men, the risk of heart attacks and strokes seems to be reduced by about 15-20 percent. While the information is the strongest for red wine, there seems to be benefits for all types of alcoholic beverages; beer, whiskey, scotch, you name it.

It is known there’s something in the skin of red or purple grapes that help to protect the heart, why would whiskey or beer produce benefits?

A single alcoholic drink regardless of type lowers blood pressure and like aspirin reduces platelet stickiness. The effects of the flavanoids from the skin on red wine on artery inflammation and on good cholesterol may contribute extra benefits as well. However, red wine and light beer have about 100 calories per drink while whiskey and scotch only have 50 calories so those who don’t want the extra calories can feel satisfied knowing that there is an option out there for them as well.

Is it true that purple grape juice has the same heart protective effects as red wine?

Purple grape juice has only been studied in small groups of people looking at outcomes like blood pressure, not whether or not it reduces heart attacks and strokes. It had good effects on blood pressure so it may be protective but further study is needed.

So should all adults start drinking alcohol to protect their hearts?

No, the American Heart Association recommends against starting to drink alcohol just for the heart benefits. Having more than two drinks a day increases blood pressure and stroke, liver disease, blood sugars, obesity, suicide and accidents. Some people cannot limit their alcohol intake and any benefits in these people are overshadowed by these risks. Plus it isn’t known whether alcohol gives you benefits over and above those seen with a baby aspirin a day.  However, if you already consume alcohol, if you limit your intake you may get a good tasting beverage and heart benefits to boot.

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