Getting to the Heart of a Healthy Diet: Alcohol
American Heart Association recommendation: Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you're a woman and no more than two if you're a man. Do not start drinking if you do not already drink alcohol. Consult your doctor on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation.
People who drink moderately have heart disease less often than nondrinkers. Alcohol appears to increase HDL, the good form of cholesterol. Some other ways that researchers believe alcohol may help protect the heart include:
- The alcohol or some other substance in alcoholic drinks, possibly resveratrol, may prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together. This, in turn, will reduce clot formation and the risk for heart attack or stroke.
- Flavonoids and other antioxidants in red wine protect the heart and arteries.
However, there are many negative health effects associated with alcohol intake as well. These include:
Moderation is essential with alcohol, because many chronic health problems can develop, or be exacerbated, from alcohol abuse. "One drink" equals no more than 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol. For example:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 4 ounces of wine*
- 1-1/2 ounces of 80-proof spirits
- 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits
If you choose not to drink, you are not missing out. You can get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, and the flavonoids in red wine are also in red grapes and grape juice. Regular exercise increases HDL levels, as does alcohol consumption. And, if blood clotting is a concern for you, talk to your doctor about taking aspirin on a regular basis.
American Heart Association
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
BC Health Guide
Last reviewed May 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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