However, the type of alcohol did matter, King said. "Wine-only drinkers had 68 percent fewer cardiovascular events, whereas the drinkers of beer, liquor and mixed drinks had only a 21 percent benefit, and that was not [statistically] significant," he said.
"A sip of wine with dinner is part of a healthy lifestyle, even if you haven't been doing it previously," he added.
King cautioned that starting to drink isn't a wise choice for everyone. "There's a small percentage of people who, when they start to drink, will drink too much," he said. "People should discuss this with their physician if they have liver disease or a family history of alcoholism or other medical problems."
But Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is one heart expert who doesn't think that studies have conclusively proven that alcohol reduces your cardiovascular risk.
People should stick to controlling known risk factors for heart disease -- such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels -- before taking up drinking, he advised.
"A number of observational studies have suggested moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular" problems, Fonarow said. "However, it has not been established whether it is the alcohol consumption itself or other factors that distinguish those with moderate alcohol consumption from non-drinkers which account for the lower cardiovascular risk."
The new study offered evidence that moderate alcohol consumption was linked to lower heart risks, but there was no difference in overall mortality between drinkers and non-drinkers, he noted.
"The findings suggest that for non-drinkers, adopting mild alcohol consumption may have cardiovascular benefits," Fonarow said. "However, until the potenti
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