Page last updated: Friday, June 3, 2005
Moderate Drinking Can Benefit Heart Patients
According to researchers, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can cut further narrowing of the arteries in patients who have had heart surgery. The benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol to reduce the risk of heart disease are well known, but scientists at Heidelberg University in Germany have shown that even after the damage has been done and repaired, alcohol has a protective effect.

In patients who had surgery to open up a blocked artery, alcohol cut the risk of restenosis, or re-narrowing of the treated artery, which occurs in 30-40 percent of patients in the first four months afterwards. “Alcohol consumption in this patient population reduced the incidence of restenosis,” said Dr Feraydoon Niroomand, a cardiologist at the university. “This is the first time this has been shown in patients.”

Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death in industrialized countries. Niroomand and his team questioned 225 male patients who had balloon angioplasty about how much alcohol they drank in the first few months after the procedure. Balloon angioplasty is a standard treatment for heart disease. It involves inserting a very tiny balloon into the artery, inflating it and putting a tube in place to hold the artery open so blood can flow freely through it. The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Heart, found that patients who drank little or no alcohol had more blocked arteries, worse cholesterol levels and poorer heart function than patients who drank 50 grams of alcohol, or about a bottle of wine or 2.5 liters of beer, a week.

They were also more likely to need a repeat angioplasty. “There are data from experimental studies that show alcohol reduces the proliferation of smooth muscle cells which constitute the majority of the vessel wall and which are also responsible for this renarrowing,” Niroomand said.

Forty-two percent of patients in the study who drank little or no alcohol needed a repeat angioplasty, compared to 23 percent in the group who consumed moderate amounts. Niroomand said, though, that the results should not encourage people to take up or increase their drinking.

Source: Niroomand F et al. Influence of alcohol consumption on restenosis rate after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty and stent implantation. Heart 2004;90(10).

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