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Booze You Can Use
Whether you like a glass of wine with dinner or have been a teetotaler all your life, you'll find this news very interesting: Researchers report that if you start drinking small amounts of alcohol (particularly wine) in middle age, you can dramatically lower your heart attack risk.
Those conclusions, from the Medical University of South Carolina's Department of Family Medicine, come from a 4-year analysis of more than 7,000 people, all of whom were nondrinkers at the start of the study and between the ages of 45 and 64. During that time, the 6% of participants who began to drink moderately (one drink a day for women, two for men) reduced their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack by an average of 38% (wine-only drinkers by 68%).
Alcohol delivers its benefits in several ways, helping raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and stimulating the release of nitric oxide and histamines that relax blood vessels and improve their function. But as we all know, alcohol can be addictive, and too much can cause high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, and abnormal heart rhythms, and raise the risk of breast cancer in women. That's why I continue to emphasize trying other lifestyle measures known to reduce cardiovascular risk--maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight; exercising regularly; and avoiding smoking. Despite this intriguing study, my bottom line remains unchanged: If you don't drink regularly, don't start now. And if you do have one glass of wine with dinner…cheers!
Arthur Agatston, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is the author of The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life. He maintains a cardiology practice and research foundation in Miami Beach, FL.
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