The best health advice is not to use alcohol for any medical reason, but to understand that it can in ways benefit your heart. But only in moderate doses. Some types of alcohol could reduce your risk of suffering a stroke. And studies have also shown that alcohol could drop your risk of heart disease — and even cardiac death.
In a Danish study with 13,329 men and women aged 45 to 84, researchers showed a definite relationship between wine intake and stroke. Specifically, they showed that drinking wine on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis was associated with a lower risk of stroke. There was, though, no association between intake of beer or spirits and the risk of stroke.
In a meta-analysis of 157 studies, the researchers concluded that, when compared with abstaining, the ingestion of more than 60 grams of alcohol a day increased the risk of stroke, whereas consumption of less than 12 grams a day was associated with reduced risk of stroke. They speculate that moderate alcohol use could increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, stop platelets from clumping together, and enhance your blood’s clotting abilities.
In another study, with 6,051 men and 7,234 women aged 30 to 70 years followed for 12 years, a group of researchers studied the different alcoholic drinks and overall death rates. This study showed that individuals who drank three to five glasses of wine a day were half as likely to die from heart disease, stroke or any other causes as compared to those who never drank wine. However, those who drank three to five drinks of hard liquor experienced an increase in all-cause mortality by 34% when compared to non-drinkers. Beer drinking was not associated with any increase in mortality.
In the Women’s Health Study (26,399 women), researchers showed that alcohol intake of five to 15 grams a day was associated with 26%, 35% and 51% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total death and cardiovascular death, respectively. The reduced cardiovascular risks associated with alcohol intake in a large part was due to lowering of cholesterol followed by lowering of hemoglobin A1C (which measures the average blood sugar the previous three months), inflammatory and coagulation factors, and blood pressure.
In a large meta-analysis (over one million subjects), up to four drinks a day in men and two in women was inversely related with total mortality, with a maximum protection of around 18% in women and 17% in men.
Moderate red wine consumption (one to two drinks a day; 10 to 30 grams alcohol) in most populations seems to have beneficial cardiovascular effects. These authors speculated that red wine components, especially alcohol, resveratrol or other chemical, could reduce oxidative stress, increase HDL cholesterol and inhibit hardening of the arteries.