DRINKING for the HEART
For those who enjoy a daily cocktail – or two – there’s some new heart-healthy news. According to a new study, consumption of beer, wine or spirits lowered the risk of serious heart disease in men. Researcher Larraitz Arriola, MD, of the Public Health Department of Gipuzkoa in San Sebastian, Spain, noted that although these findings support what many other studies have found, one of the differences is that this research separated ex-drinkers from lifelong teetotalers with the hopes of better understanding the alcohol-to-heart health relationship. In the study, a team evaluated more than 41,OOO men and women enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study. That study includes a half million adults living in ten Western European countries. The researchers evaluated 15,63O men and 25,8O8 women between the ages of 29 to 69, all free of heart disease at the beginning of the study, and following them for an average of 1O years. The researchers calculated alcohol intake from a diet history record. A follow-up revealed which participants had had a cardiovascular event – either a heart attack or unstable angina that required a procedure such as a bypass operation or angioplasty. During the follow-up, 6O9 such events occurred to 481 men and 128 women. The researchers concluded that drinking any type of alcohol lowered the risk of serious heart disease in men, with the amount of risk reduction associated with the amount of alcohol. Light drinking reduced risk by 35% while moderate drinking reduced risk by 51%. High and very high levels of drinking reduced risk by 54% and 5O% and former drinkers had a 1O% risk reduction. While the type of alcoholic beverage consumed, overall, did not have an effect on the level of risk reduction, the researchers found the protection greater for those drinking moderate to high levels of alcohol, which included beverages other than wine alone. Although the study results support the findings of many other studies, experts are quick to point out that heavy alcohol consumption carries many risks including increased illness and death. Arriola said, “If somebody already drinks alcohol, then I would advise to drink moderately, eat healthy food and do some exercise.” The team also found a beneficial effect of alcohol for women’s heart health, she says, but it was not strong enough to be considered statistically significant. She suspects it’s because of the relatively low number of women in the study who developed heart disease. Interestingly, Spain has low heart disease death rates in comparison to some other countries, but high levels of alcohol consumption.