A Toast to Your Heart? (Heart Health)
Over the last several years, a number of studies have reported that moderate drinkers are less likely to develop heart disease than people who don’t drink any alcohol or who drink too much. Small amounts of alcohol may help protect against heart disease by raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
If you are a nondrinker, this is not a recommendation to start using alcohol. Recent studies show that alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer. And certainly if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or have another health condition that could make alcohol use harmful, you should not drink at all. But, otherwise, if you’re already a moderate drinker, you may be less likely to have a heart attack.
It is important, though, to weigh benefits against risks. Talk with your doctor about your personal risks of breast cancer, heart disease, and other health conditions that may be affected by drinking alcohol. With the help of your physician, decide whether moderate drinking to lower heart attack risk outweighs the possible increased risk of developing other medical problems.
If you do decide to use alcohol, remember that moderation is the key. Heavy drinking causes many heart-related problems. More than three drinks per day can raise blood pressure, while binge drinking can contribute to stroke. Too much alcohol also can damage the heart muscle, leading to heart failure. Overall, people who drink heavily on a regular basis have higher rates of heart disease than either moderate drinkers or nondrinkers.