Health

One or two alcoholic drinks a day ‘lowers risk of dying from heart disease’


ONE or two alcoholic drinks a day can lower your risk of dying from heart disease, new research suggests.

Drinking alcohol in moderation can calm stress signals in the brain – lowering the impact on the heart, researchers say.

Researchers revealed that one or two alcoholic drinks a day could lower your risk of dying from heart disease

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Researchers revealed that one or two alcoholic drinks a day could lower your risk of dying from heart diseaseCredit: Getty

A study, published in the American College of Cardiology found that men who have two drinks a day, or women who have one drink a day have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease in comparison to those who abstain from drinking or partake in excessive boozing.

While experts say the findings should not encourage alcohol use, they could open the door to new therapeutics being used to treat stress.

The researchers hinted at exercise or yoga which helps to minimise stress signals in the brain.

Lead author of the study and fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Kenechukwu Mezue said: “We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately.

“While people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity.

“The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

What is a heart attack and what should I look out for?

A HEART attack – or myocardial infarction – occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked

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The heart muscle is then robbed of vital oxygenated blood which, if left untreated, can cause the heart muscle to begin to die.

Heart attack symptoms can be difficult to spot for sure, because they can vary from person to person.

The most common signs include:

  • chest pain, tightness, heaviness, pain or a burning feeling in your chest
  • pain in the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • for some people the pain and tightness will be severe, while for others it will just feel uncomfortable
  • sweating
  • feeling light-headed
  • becoming short of breath
  • feeling nauseous or vomiting

The experts looked at data from 53,064 participants, nearly 60 per cent were women and the average age was 57.2 years old.

They based the risk on the alcohol intake of each person and classed low intake as one drink a week, moderate as one to 14 drinks a week and high as 14 or more drinks a week.

Researchers then compared this to the number of people suffering cardiovascular events.

These included heart attacks, strokes or related hospitalisations.

Some patients also had screenings which revealed increased brain activity and these scans allowed researchers to measure activity in the regions of the brain that are linked to stress.

The results showed that 15 per cent of participants experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event – 17 per cent in the low alcohol intake and 13 per cent in the moderate intake.

Those who reported moderate alcohol intake were 20 per cent less likely to die of a cardiovascular event than those in the low alcohol group.

The people in the moderate intake group also had lower stress-related brain activity.

Mezue said previous studies have shown a robust association between heightened amygdalar activity (the part of the brain associated with fear and stress) and a higher risk of major adverse cardiovascular outcomes.

He added: “In the current study, path analyses showed that the link between moderate alcohol intake and lowered cardiovascular event risk is significantly mediated though reductions in amygdalar activity.”

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