Doctors may be asking men who survived heart attack to have a couple of alcoholic drinks every day, if they were to go by a study published in the European Heart Journal.
The U.S. study found that having survived a first heart attack, men who drank about two drinks a day had a 42 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than non-drinkers. They also had a 14 percent lower risk of death from any cause.
There is no room for indulging though. The study specifically noted that the benefits were seen only with moderate drinking. High amounts of alcohol are known to damage the brain, liver and heart.
The findings, broadly in line with earlier evidence that controlled drinking levels can protect the heart and arteries, were published in the European Heart Journal. The type of drink did not affect the results.
Dr. Jennifer Pai, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School is the first author of the study.
Dr. Pai and her colleagues monitored the progress of 1,818 men who had survived a first heart attack between 1986 and 2006. The researchers followed them for up to 20 years from the time of the heart attack. 468 of the men died during this period.
The men were taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, a major health and lifestyle investigation. Every four years, they were questioned about their diet and alcohol intake.
Those who consumed between 10 and 29.9 grams of alcohol a day were classified as 'moderate' drinkers. A four-ounce glass of wine contains 11 grams of alcohol, a bottle or can of beer 12.8 grams, and a shot of spirits 14 grams. Most of the men did not change their drinking habits after they had a heart attack.
"Our findings clearly demonstrate that long-term moderate alcohol consumption among men who survived a heart attack was associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular mortality," Pai said.
"We also found that among men who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol prior to a heart attack, those who continued to consume alcohol 'in moderation' afterwards also had better long term prognosis," she added.
Pai stressed that the study looked only at men and the same results may not necessarily apply to women.
However, data collected in the Nurses' Health Study in September 2011 revealed that women who drink the equivalent of a beer or small glass of wine each day were less likely to get diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes at an older age.
Researchers analyzed a group of nearly 14,000 women that enrolled in the study, looking at the effects of alcohol and aging. Data showed women who consumed up to one alcoholic drink per day were found to be 20 percent more likely to be disease-free at age 70 than non-drinkers.
Meanwhile, health experts have said they do not encourage teetotalers to start drinking for potential health benefits.
by RTT Staff Writer
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