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A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
Date:11/15/2010

patients (about 80 percent men and 20 percent women) for three-and-a-half years.

"What the study does say is that people who drink a lot, just as we've seen before, increase their risk, and particularly because we know that alcohol directly affects heart pumping function. It decreases contraction of heart muscle," Hayes said.

Benedetto said the study results need to be confirmed over a longer follow-up period, with more patients and control participants.

A second study presented Sunday found that for women, the benefit of one libation a day came in the form of lowered stroke risk.

"Low levels of alcohol may be slightly protective," Hayes said. "It's not strong enough to tell people to drink. But it is reassuring that people who do drink do not increase their risk of stroke."

Other research presented Sunday found that women's overall health also benefited from light-to-moderate drinking of alcohol.

Among almost 14,000 nurses participating in the U.S. government-funded Nurses Health Study, women who drank moderately at mid-life were more likely to be healthy at 70, meaning no major chronic diseases or physical disabilities and no dementia.

Not surprisingly, women who drank regularly (though still modest amounts) were more likely to have "successful survival" than binge drinkers or even people who only drank now and then, the study found.

"If you like a glass of wine every night with your dinner when you're in your 40s, that might be associated with being healthier at 70, not just alive but truly healthier," Hayes said.

But talking to patients about alcohol can be tricky, doctors acknowledged.

"If someone is already drinking a modest amount of alcohol -- one glass a day for women and up to two a day for men -- I don't discourage them or talk them out of drinking because it seems like there may be some benefit and little harm at those doses," said Dr. Erin D. Michos, assistant professor of medicine in th
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