Not a day goes by when we’re not told different information alcohol. First, it's that red wine keeps the heart healthy; then, it’s how even light drinking can cause cancer.
But before you feel guilty about taking a sip of the refreshing pint or shun savoring a glass of red, a brand new study has discovered that moderate drinking can in fact prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Harvard University found that in the first three hours after drinking alcohol, a person’s heart rate is increased and the normal heart pace is disrupted; after 24 hours, moderate alcohol intake protects the heart by improving blood flow and the function of the lining of blood vessels. It also reduces clotting.
In turn, this is linked to a lower risk of a heart attack or stroke from bleeding on the brain. The time frame also shows improvement a week after drinking—and after seven days, the risk of a stroke by a blood clot is reduced.
Moderate drinking was defined by scientists as six drinks a week. However, when a person indulges in heavier drinking, 15 or more each week for men and more than eight for women, there’s a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. This was shown both immediately after drinking and long term.
To reach their results, the Harvard team looked at 23 studies that included nearly 30,000 participants.
“There appears to be a transiently higher risk of heart attack and strokes in the hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage, but within a day after drinking, only heavy alcohol intake seems to pose a higher cardiovascular risk,” said Harvard University’s Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky.
“Just after drinking, blood pressure rises and blood platelets become stickier, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“However, regularly drinking small amounts of alcohol in the long term appears to both increase levels of HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein cholesterol) the so-called good cholesterol, and reduce the tendency to form blood clots," she explained, adding, "If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.”
The findings were published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.