A couple of drinks a day protects men from heart attacks

September 29, 2017

The researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, have found that a regular tipple significantly lowers healthy men's' risk of heart attack .

They say men who drink between one and a half and three units of alcohol a day on average have an almost a third less risk of suffering the heart attacks faced by healthy men who stay off the booze.

One unit is a glass of wine or a half-pint of beer.

Experts say the finding may encourage doctors to recommend moderate drinking to a wider range of patients.

Lead author Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, says most of the discussion about moderate drinking has suggested there are better ways to lower one's heart disease risk than drinking alcohol, which leaves questions about men who are already doing those other things.

For the study, Mukamal's team looked at data collected in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study on alcohol and heart attacks on almost 9,000 healthy men.

The men had provided information about their diet and alcohol use; all were nonsmokers, ate a healthy diet, exercised at least 30 minutes a day and were not overweight.

In the period from 1986 to 2002, 106 of the men had heart attacks; of these men, eight were among the 1,282 who drank about two drinks a day, nine were among the 714 who had over two drinks a day, and 28 were among the 1,889 men who did not drink at all.

The researchers found the men who had two drinks a day had the lowest risk for heart attack, while those who didn't drink had the highest risk.

Twenty-five percent of the heart attacks were among men who drank less than 5 grams of alcohol a day.

Mukamal believes the guidelines about drinking and heart disease need to be re-assessed to take into account the benefit of alcohol on healthy men. He also believes the same benefit will be seen among healthy women.

Mukamal does however caution against non-drinkers starting to drink and says heart disease is only one of the diseases that people can develop and his study does not take into account cancer or any other illness.

Some experts say they have begun recommending moderate alcohol use to their patients as there is powerful evidence suggesting that alcohol reduces the risk of heart attacks by increasing the levels of the "good" cholesterol HDL in the blood and reducing the risk of clotting.

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