Men who have two drinks a day after surviving a first heart attack have a lower risk of death from heart disease than non-drinkers, Harvard researchers said, adding to evidence that moderate alcohol use may be healthy.
Men who survived a heart attack and who drank two alcoholic drinks a day had a 42 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 14 percent lower risk of death from any cause during the study compared with non-drinkers, according to a study led by Jennifer Pai, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The study followed 1,818 men for as many as 20 years from the time of their first heart attack.
The results, published today in the European Heart Journal, add to other studies that have observed the positive effects of moderate drinking. People who have one drink or fewer each day are 14 percent to 25 percent less likely to develop heart disease compared with those who don’t imbibe, Canadian researchers said last year. Until now, data on whether it can also help heart attack survivors have been limited and conflicting, according to Pai.
“The findings of our study support the European Society of Cardiology recommended guidelines for long-term management of acute coronary syndromes that moderate alcohol consumption of 10 to 30 grams per day in men should not be discouraged and may be beneficial for long-term prognosis after a heart attack,” Pai said in a statement.
Participants who drank between 10 and 29.9 grams (1.1 ounces) of alcohol content were categorized as moderate drinkers. A bottle or can of beer contains 12.8 grams, while a 4-ounce glass of wine has 11 grams of alcohol. Men who drank the most, 30 grams or more a day, had a risk of death from any cause that was similar to that of non-drinkers.
In previous studies, moderate alcohol intake has been associated with increased levels of HDL, or so-called good cholesterol, improved insulin sensitivity and other effects that reduce heart attack risk, Pai said in the study.
Europeans consume more alcohol, about double the global average at 12.5 liters (3.3 gallons) of alcohol content a year, than in any other part of the world, the World Health Organization said yesterday. That amounts to 27 grams of alcohol per day. Consumption is highest in central-eastern and eastern Europe at 14.5 liters a year.
While Pai’s study only observed men, associations tend to be similar between chronic disease and lower quantities of alcohol for women, Pai said.
“An association is likely to be observed at five to 14.9 grams per day, or up to a drink a day for women,” she said.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.