Have Heart Issues? A Bit of Booze Daily 'Not That Bad'

New research shows light to moderate alcohol consumption may protect previous heart patients
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2021 8:31 AM CDT
Have Heart Issues? A Bit of Booze Daily 'Not That Bad'
Have a history of heart disease? A little alcohol daily might not be so bad.   (Getty Images/OlegEvseev)

Alcohol was the bad guy again in a recent study tying it to hundreds of thousands of cancer cases, but if you're already suffering from a cardiovascular condition? A small amount daily is "not that bad." That's how scientist Emmanuela Gakidou of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation sums up new research showing that light to moderate consumption of alcohol—under 105 grams weekly, or about a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer—offers a layer of protection for those who've already had heart issues from having another heart attack or stroke, or from dying prematurely, as compared with patients who refrain completely from throwing one back. "This is not the general population," Gakidou, who wasn't involved in the new research, tells CNN of the study published Tuesday in the BMC Medicine journal. This "applies to people who have already had something happen that relates to cardiovascular health."

For this study, said to be the largest yet of its kind, researchers tracked a total of 48,423 patients who'd already had a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event, using both new data and that from 12 already published studies. Scientists found those who averaged 8 grams of alcohol a day had a 27% lower risk of death from such heart issues than those who abstained; patients who only drank 6 grams per day saw a 50% risk reduction. However, that amount is far less than the WHO's top recommended limit of 166 grams weekly, or the American Heart Association's recommendation for heart patients of two drinks a day per men, one for women (an average US drink has 14 grams of alcohol, per Reuters). It also doesn't mean heart attack patients who usually don't drink should start. Overall, "drinking less is better for health than drinking more," per CDC guidelines, as booze has been tied to a plethora of other issues, including cancer, high blood pressure, and injuries from accidents. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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