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Alcohol and Heart Health

August 19, 2010

You may have heard that red wine is good for heart health, perhaps it’s the antioxidants – like flavonoids or polyphenols, or it could be the resveratrol, or even the alcohol content. Let’s look at the benefits and the detriments.

  • red wine heart healthPolyphenols help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.
  • The alcohol and antioxidants increase the  levels of "good" cholesterol and protect against artery damage.
  • Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease.
  • Various studies have shown that moderate amounts of all types of alcohol benefit your heart by:
    1. Raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol
    2. Reducing the formation of blood clots
    3. Helping to prevent artery damage caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol.

But doctors don’t want to encourage people to start drinking since too much alcohol can be harmful. Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will recommend it either, since alcohol can be addictive and is associated with other health issues.

Drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents (the number one cause of death in 15-30 year olds) and other problems. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause cardiomyopathy — weakened heart muscle — causing symptoms of heart failure in some people.

If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as an average of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.