Page last updated: Friday, June 3, 2005
A drink a day improves overall heart health
People who drink one drink a day – wine, beer or spirits – show significantly better elasticity of their body’s arteries, an important measure of cardiovascular health, results of a new study suggest. "We thought only red wine helps, but we found if people drink one beer or one unit of hard liquor a day, they also have improved arterial elasticity, better than nondrinkers," said Dr. Reuven Zimlichman of Wolfson Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel. The research was presented via the American Society of Hypertension.

When arteries lose elasticity, they fail to relax as the heart pumps blood. This causes a rise in the systolic blood pressure, something Zimlichman calls a "terrible predictor" of future strokes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. The researchers also found that moderate drinkers had pulse rates that were significantly lower than those of nondrinkers. "There’s been lots of study of pulse rates and the risk of disease," Zimlichman said. He noted that higher pulse rates are associated with an increased risk of disease and death.

In comparing wine drinkers with drinkers who favour other alcoholic beverages, the researchers observed that beer and spirits drinkers had slightly higher blood pressure than wine drinkers. But all drinkers had blood pressure within normal ranges. The researchers studied 243 healthy people between the ages of 15 and 80 who volunteered to fill out questionnaires and be tested at clinics in seven European countries. They excluded people who drank more than one drink a day and adjusted their findings for age because arterial elasticity commonly gets worse with age.

When asked if this study means non drinkers should start drinking, Zimlichman pointed out that heavy drinking itself can cause high blood pressure."Whenever you recommend drinking, you have to consider the possibility that somebody will like it too much and over-drink and cause damage to his health," he said. "But if someone has a high risk of cardiovascular disease, I recommend to my patients that they drink one glass of red wine a day." Although his study showed similar benefits for beer and hard liquor as for wine.

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