Research Says Drinking in Moderation Can Help Protect Against Heart Attacks or Strokes

It turns out that a small drink a day could prove to have lasting health benefits. New research published in the journal BMC Medicine uncovered that consuming a bit of alcohol can actually help protect people from a heart attack, stroke, angina, or early death if they already live with a cardiovascular condition, CNN reports. "This is not the general population—the study applies to people who have already had something happen that relates to cardiovascular health," said Emmanuela Gakidou, an alcohol researcher and senior director of organizational development and training at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Woman standing in kitchen, pouring herself a glass of white wine
Woman standing in kitchen, pouring herself a glass of white wine

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"What they find is that if you continue to drink after you've had a cardiac event, it's not that bad for you, as long as you keep consumption low," added Gakidou. The study discovered that people living with a heart condition who ingested 105 grams of alcohol over the course of one week (which equals one bottle of wine or a six-pack of medium strength beer), were protected from experiencing more heart-related issues or an early death in comparison to people who didn't have anything to drink at all. After studying 14,000 people for over 20 years who had already had a heart attack, stroke, or angina and observing data from 12 other studies (totaling 48,000 more people), the researchers found that those with heart conditions who drank between six to eight grams of alcohol each day (42 to 56 grams a week) had the lowest chance of experiencing a heart event. People who drank eight grams had a 27 percent lower of a chance of having a heart attack. Further, those who drank less than six grams had a 50 percent lower risk of battling a cardiovascular issue than people who didn't have a drink.

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"Our findings suggest that people with CVD (cardiovascular disease) may not need to stop drinking in order to prevent additional heart attacks, strokes, or angina, but that they may wish to consider lowering their weekly alcohol intake," Chengyi Ding, study author and a postdoctoral student at University College London, said in a statement. The findings still won't connect to everyone, as some people could be at a higher risk for cirrhosis, tuberculosis, cancer, and alcohol-related accidents and injuries by drinking more alcohol. "If your main health condition risk is cancer, then the safest level of drinking is probably zero," Gakidou said. "And if you're younger than 40-years-old or so, the safest level of alcohol is still zero because younger adults die from injuries related to alcohol around the world."

However, health organizations still point to no drinking. "While some studies have found improved health outcomes among moderate drinkers, it's impossible to conclude whether these improved outcomes are due to moderate alcohol consumption or other differences in behaviors or genetics between people who drink moderately and people who don't," according to the United States Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The officials "do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason."