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Alcohol vs. Lifestyle - Heart Health

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Heart Health

Medical research has demonstrated a strong relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduction in cardiovascular disease in general and coronary artery disease in particular.41 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health, resulting in a sharp decrease in heart disease risk (40%-60%).42 This is important because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and heart disease kills about one million Americans each and every year.43 The Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote that "Numerous well-designed studies have concluded that moderate drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health," and the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that "The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day."44 A World Health Organization Technical Committee on Cardiovascular Disease asserted that the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced death from heart disease can no longer be doubted.45

• Researchers studied volunteers in seven European countries and found that people who have a daily drink of beer, wine or distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, tequila, etc.) have significantly better arterial elasticity, a strong indicator of of heart health and cardiovascular health, than nondrinkers. Moderate drinkers also had significantly better pulse rates than those of abstainers from

• A study of 1,795 subjects found that "the risk of extensive coronary calcification was 50% lower in individuals who consumed one to two alcoholic drinks per day than in nondrinkers."46

• Research demonstrates that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better endothelial function, which contributes to better heart health and lowers risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.47

• A study of over 3,000 men and women found that those who never drank alcohol were at a greater risk of having high levels of CRP and IL-6 (excellent predictors of heart attack) than were those who consumed alcoholic beverages in moderation.48

Moderate Drinkers are Less Likely to Suffer Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attacks (Acute Myocardial Infarctions) than are Abstainers or Heavy Drinkers.

A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism review of research studies from at least 20 countries around the world demonstrate a 20- to 40-percent lower coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence among drinkers compared to nondrinkers. It asserts that "The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship... there are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake."

• Harvard researchers have identified the moderate consumption of alcohol as a proven way to reduce coronary heart disease risk.50

• A study of 18,455 males from the Physicians Health Study revealed that those originally consuming one drink per week or less who increased their consumption up to to six drinks per week had a 29% reduction in CVD risk compared to those who did not increase their consumption. Men originally consuming 1-6 drinks per week who increased their consumption moderately had an additional 15% decrease in CVD risk.51

• The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of over 44,000 men found moderate alcohol consumption to be associated with a 37% reduction in coronary disease.52

• A British study of women found moderate consumption of alcohol to be associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk factors.53

• A study of over 5,000 women with type 2 diabetes mellitus found that coronary heart disease rates "were significantly lower in women who reported moderate alcohol intake than in those who reported drinking no alcohol." Women who drank more than 5 grams (about one-third glass) a day reduced their risk of CHD (fatal or nonfatal) by more than half.54

• In a study of nearly 88,000 men, researchers found that drinking reduced risk of coronary heart disease risk among both diabetics and non-diabetics. Weekly consumption of alcohol reduced CHD risk by one-third (33%) while daily consumption reduced the risk by over half (58%) among diabetics. For non-diabetics, weekly consumption reduced CHD risk by 18% while daily consumption reduced the risk by 39%.55

• Light to moderate consumption of alcohol appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 80% among individuals with older-onset diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.56

• The Honolulu Heart Study found a 49% reduction in coronary heart disease among men who drank alcohol in moderation.57

• Harvard researchers concluded about coronary heart disease that "Consumption of one or two drinks of beer, wine, or liquor per day has corresponded to a reduction in risk of approximately 20-40%."58

• At a scientific conference, researchers from Korea, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States reported finding striking reductions in death among moderate drinkers, with heart disease and total mortality rates about one half or less compared to non-drinkers.59

• After over 6,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study were followed for a period of six to ten years, researchers found that "when consumed in moderation, alcohol appears to protect against congestive heart failure."60

• The American Heart Association, based on the research evidence, concludes that the "Consumption of one or two drinks per day is associated with a [CHD] reduction in risk of approximately 30% to 50%."61

• After reviewing the research, Dr. David Whitten reported that "The studies that have been done show pretty clearly that the chances of suffering cardiac death are dramatically reduced by drinking" one or two drinks a day and asserted that "We don't have any drugs that are as good as alcohol."62

• Based on the medical evidence, noted investigator Dr. Curtis Ellison asserted that "abstinence from alcohol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease."63

•The Moderate Consumption of Alcohol Increases the Survivability of Heart Attacks

Drinking alcohol in moderation throughout the year before a heart attack or acute myocardial infarction (AMI) has been found to reduce the risk of dying afterward. Moderate drinkers had the lowest mortality rate, reducing their risk by 32%, compared to abstainers. The health benefits were virtually identical for beer, distilled spirits, and wine.

• Men who consume two to four drinks of alcohol after a heart attack are less likely to experience a second heart attack than are abstainers, according to a study of 353 male heart attack survivors. Researchers found that men who consumed an average of two drinks of alcohol per day were 59% less likely than non-drinkers to have another heart attack. Those who drank an average of four drinks per day experienced a risk reduction of 52% compared to abstainers.

• Research at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that drinking alcohol (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) in moderation reduced the damage to effected tissue following a heart attack.

• A study for a five year period of over 85,000 men who had suffered previous heart attacks found that "moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant decrease in total mortality" compared to nondrinkers.

Alcohol Abstainers Who Begin Drinking Reduce Their Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

• During a ten year study of 7,697 non-drinkers, investigators found that 6% began consuming alcohol in moderation. After four years of follow-up, new moderate drinkers had a 38% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease than did those who continued abstaining. Even after adjusting for physical activity, Body Mass Index (BMI), demographic and cardiac risk factors, this difference persisted. This study is important because it provides additional strong evidence that the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease among moderate drinkers is a result of the alcohol itself rather than any differences in lifestyle, genetics, or other factors.68

• A study of men with high blood pressure found that those who averaged one to six drinks per week has a 39% lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes than were abstainers. Those who averaged more (one or two drinks each day) were 44% less likely to experience such death.69

Frequent Drinkers Enjoy Greater Heart-Health Benefits than Those Who Drink Less Often

• In a study of nearly 88,000 men, researchers found reductions in coronary heart disease risk with increasing frequency of drinking alcohol for both diabetics and non- diabetics. Weekly consumption of alcohol reduced CHD risk by one-third (33%) while daily consumption reduced the risk by over half (58%) among diabetics. For non-diabetics, weekly consumption reduced CHD risk by 18% while daily consumption reduced the risk by


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