In recent years, we’ve all heard reports that alcohol, especially red wine, can be good for your heart. Is it all just wishful thinking? Not at all, says Syed N. Ahmed, M.D., a cardiologist with Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.
“Many studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of heart-related deaths,” Dr. Ahmed says. “And it’s not just red wine. Alcohol in general appears to lower your risk.”
However, that doesn’t mean you now have permission to drink as much as you want. “The protective effects of alcohol are linked to moderate drinking,” Dr. Ahmed points out. “That’s probably less than you think. Moderate drinking is defined as only one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.”
One recent study combined the results of 84 different studies on the topic, and found significant heart health benefits from alcohol: a 25 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack or other heart or blood vessel disease, and a 29 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease. “That study also found that alcohol lowered the risk of death from all causes by 13 percent,” Dr. Ahmed says.
Other studies have found that moderate alcohol intake can:
- Lower your risk of ischemic stroke. About 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic, or caused by a buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries.
- Reduce the risk of blockages in your leg arteries. Obstructions in leg arteries can cause poor circulation in the leg, called claudication, which can be an early symptom of peripheral vascular disease. Signs of claudication include cramping, aching, numbness, fatigue, or heaviness in leg muscles downstream after walking, especially downhill.
- Raise the level of helpful antioxidants in your blood.
- Increase your level of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that can protect against heart attack and stroke.