Almost all doctors will tell you not to consume alcohol frequently if you suffer from high blood pressure. Their advice is sound – while occasional and light consumption of alcohol rarely affects high blood pressure, excess consumption is unwise.
However, researchers have now found that one to two standard drinks of alcohol a day may protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease, even for people with higher-than-normal blood pressure levels.
Senior author Qi-Qiang He, who works as part of the School of Public Health/Global Health Institute in China’s Wunan University, says that people should not increase their alcohol consumption if they have not previously been alcohol drinkers.
The observational study links low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption with a slightly decreased risk of developing heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, strokes and a wide variety of other serious medical conditions.
However, the study did not involve many heavy drinkers and its authors warn that heavy drinking and binge drinking have a significant negative impact on both heart health and general wellbeing.
The study, which is not yet conclusive proof of a link between alcohol consumption and heart health, has been seen by many wine hobbyists as proof of the ‘one a day’ metric for improving health and wellness.
In addition to heart attack and stroke, the study indicated that the risk of death for all causes was lowest for people who consumed eight to 10 grams of alcohol – less than one standard drink – per day.
Interestingly, people who consumed a light amount of alcohol were 18% less likely to die than non-drinkers over the course of the study. This finding, however, might be due to the different demographic profile of drinkers and non-drinkers.
Critics of the study state that, as the non-drinking population is typically older and less likely to follow a healthy diet, its negative healthy effects may be attributable to sources other than non-consumption of alcohol.
Speaking to Reuters, Dr Franz H Messerli of the Icanh School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said: “One to two drinks daily is said to be the goldilocks amount of alcohol.”
“We don’t know whether moderate drinking is truly cardioprotective or whether it is merely a marker of a healthy lifestyle.”