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Is Drinking Alcohol Really Good For Your Heart?

Surprising benefits of alcohol consumption in moderation

We are often told about the negative effects of consuming too much alcohol, and it is true that binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on everything from your waistline and your liver to your brain functioning. But did you know that moderate consumption of alcohol could actually be good for your heart by helping to reduce your cholesterol levels?

Moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial
As with many things in life, moderate amounts of alcohol can produce positive effects
on our health, specially when combined with a good nutrition.
  (Image by Pixabay.com)

The Benefits of Alcohol Consumption

The American Heart Association reminds us that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and stroke. But, provided you don’t already have any existing heart condition and your heart is considered to be healthy, moderate alcohol consumption could help to provide long term protection.

Here are the three main ways in which alcohol consumption has been shown to be beneficial to your heart health:

  1. Increasing your good cholesterol levels. If you drink in moderation then your ‘good’ cholesterol levels (known as HDL levels) have been shown to rise.
  2. Alcohol is an effective anticoagulant, meaning that if you drink moderately then you are less likely to experience blood clotting and the associated risks that accompany the condition.
  3. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce your overall levels of inflammation, both in your heart and in your body overall. This is significant because inflammation can play a role in heart attacks and strokes, so reducing it will reduce your risk of suffering from these conditions.

What Kind of Alcohol Should You Consume?

It was once a widely-held belief that red wine was the best type of alcohol to consume for improved heart health. But if you’re not a fan of red wine then there is good news: new research has shown that no one kind of alcohol is considered to be more beneficial than another.

It is true that red wine contains high levels of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol. But it has since been found that you would have to consume incredibly large amounts of red wine each day, for this resveratrol to have any effect (and its positive effects would be counteracted by the negative impact of the huge amounts of alcohol you have consumed).

Sweet and sugary cocktails should probably be avoided because of the high number of calories and the large amount of sugar they contain. But if you prefer to drink beer to wine, or your favorite tipple is a glass of bourbon or gin and tonic, there is absolutely no reason why you should abandon your preference in favour of red wine instead.

Moderate amounts of alcohol benefit the heart
The heart is one of the organs that cen derive benefits from having a drink here and there,
in moderation. But it will suffer from excessive drinking.
 (Image by Pixabay.com)

The Importance of Moderation

Despite the results of these studies, it is important to note that alcohol consumption was only found to be beneficial to the heart health of women over the age of 50. And this should be done in moderation only: consuming no more than five units of alcohol per week. It is also important to note that, if you do not already consume alcohol on a regular basis, then this probably isn’t a good reason to start. There are plenty of more efficient and healthier ways to boost your heart health than by drinking alcohol.

Alcohol consumption is certainly not recommended to those who might be vulnerable to its effects. These are individuals suffering from depression or anxiety, as well as individuals with a history of alcohol abuse or other addiction problems.

Moderate consumption of alcohol should be only done by those who are relatively healthy and not affected much by drinking a small amount of their favourite alcoholic drink, especially if done with a meal. As rule of thumb, one glass of alcoholic drink every other day should be your safe approach to drinking (unless you drive).

Other Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

There are also those with chronic or long-term health conditions that would not get any benefits from consuming alcohol. It is important to note that other studies have been conducted that also demonstrate the extensive benefits that can be achieved by abstaining from alcohol altogether. This could be a better option for many.

Other and healthier ways you can improve your heart health include:

  • maintaining your weight, and ensuring it remains or returns to a healthy level,
  • increasing your fiber intake, whilst cutting your saturated fat intake,
  • exercising regularly,
  • and ensuring that you consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday.

Making small changes to your diet and exercise levels is a great way to start; build up these changes until you find they are having a big impact on your health and wellbeing.

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