Remember reading about the big U.K. study in February warning us that women who drink even one alcoholic beverage per day may be at increased risk for developing cancer?
It was alarming news for those of us who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner – and especially since several previous medical studies have linked moderate wine consumption with improved heart health. In fact, Mayo Clinic cardiologists tell us that any form of alcohol may improve heart health: red wine, white wine, beer, vodka, whatever!
The American Journal of Therapeutics reports that moderate alcohol consumption (maximum one glass/day for women, two glasses/day for men) is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. This is believed to be due to alcohol’s anti-clotting properties and its ability to slightly increase our HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Substances in alcohol such as resveratrol (res-VAIR’ah-trol) may prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together,which can reduce clot formation and the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Low-dose aspirin may help reduce blood clotting in a similar fashion – but let’s face it, heart sisters – a glass of wine in the evening is just way more fun than popping that baby aspirin.
By the way, don’t take both: people taking aspirin daily should not consume alcohol because aspirin in your system may cause the alcohol to be delivered to the bloodstream faster (about 26% higher blood alcohol content), while alcohol can increase aspirin’s bleeding risks. Ask your doctor about this.
So what’s with this newest U.K. study that suggests no amount of alcohol at all is considered safe for women?
I went straight to the experts at WomenHeart: The National Coalition For Women With Heart Disease for an official response.
Here’s the reply from Lisa Tate, Executive Director of WomenHeart:
“First, the U.K. study was an observational study that re-confirmed the already known association between alcohol intake and certain cancers (notably breast and liver). But this is the first study to show risk at such low levels of alcohol consumption (just one serving per day for women) and must be replicated before firm conclusions can be made.
“Women should discuss their individual risks with their doctors. Meanwhile, there are several studies showing that moderate alcohol intake may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. There are, however, many other ways to reduce this risk (diet, exercise, not smoking, or taking medications to control cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure). If women do drink – no more than one drink per day is recommended (two per day for men). At this recommended level, there may be a slight increase in the risk for certain cancers, and a slight reduction in the risk for heart disease.
“Higher levels of alcohol intake increase the risk of both heart disease and cancer.”
According to Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation, there is some evidence that moderate drinkers have a somewhat lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who do not drink or who drink excessively. But they add:
“If you really want to have an impact on your heart health, you’re better off eating a healthy diet, being physically active by doing moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for 150 minutes a week, and becoming smoke-free.”
© Carolyn Thomas www.myheartsisters.org
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