Q: Can drinking alcohol actually be beneficial to your heart?
A: For some people, drinking even the smallest amount of alcohol carries major risks. For others, research shows moderate consumption may actually offer a degree of protection against heart disease. Researchers continuously are studying the relationship between alcohol consumption and the heart. And, some more recent findings suggest moderate alcohol consumption can offer some protection against heart disease for some people. But determining exactly who might benefit and who might actually be at risk is difficult.

Q: What are some of the possible heart-related benefits of moderate alcohol consumption?
A: Some of the possible heart-related benefits of moderate alcohol consumption include:

  • Raising the "good" HDL cholesterol level
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Inhibiting the formation of blood clots, which can be good because it may prevent a heart attack; but, it also could increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Helping prevent artery damage caused by the "bad" LDL cholesterol

Q: How do I know what "moderate drinking" is?
A: According to the American Heart Association, moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is qualified as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Q: Is moderate drinking safe for everyone?
A: No. Even moderate alcohol consumption is not right for all people. In fact, alcohol consumption can be quite harmful to some. Anyone who has had heart failure, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, diabetes, arrhythmia, a family history of cardiac death or stroke, obesity, high triglycerides, or are taking medications should speak to their doctor before consuming alcohol. Also, if you are pregnant or have a history of alcoholism, you should not drink alcohol. Given the potential risks created by drinking alcohol, the American Heart Association cautions people not to start drinking if they do not already drink alcohol.

Q: How does alcohol affect heart disease risk?
A: How alcohol affects cardiovascular risk merits further research. Drinking alcohol in hopes of gaining potential health benefits is not recommended. Instead, talk to your doctor about lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling weight, getting enough exercise and following a healthy diet. There is no scientific proof that drinking an alcoholic beverage can replace these conventional measures.

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