Enjoying six alcoholic drinks a week does not put your heart at long-term risk, according to a new study.
The study found that drinking alcohol is associated with an immediate higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke but the risk lessens and can even become protective after 24 hours if you drink moderately. It, however, remains high for heavy drinking.
There appears to be a transiently higher risk of heart attack and strokes in the hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage but within a day after drinking, only heavy alcohol intake seems to pose a higher cardiovascular risk, said lead author Researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky.
Mostofsky added that it is the first time that all the available information has been synthesised to gain new knowledge on the acute risk of heart attacks and strokes just after drinking and in the following week for different amounts of alcohol consumed.
Researchers analysed evidence from 23 studies that included nearly 30,000 participants.
Immediately following alcohol intake, there are both harmful and protective physical responses. Within one to three hours, a single dose of alcohol increases heart rate and disrupts the heart’s normal pacing but by 24 hours, moderate alcohol intake improves blood flow, blood vessels’ lining function and reduces clotting.
Moderate drinking — up to six drinks a week in this study — was associated with an immediately higher cardiovascular risk but within a day was considered protective and associated with a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
However, heavy alcohol use was associated with higher heart attack and stroke risks at all times studied: six to nine drinks in a day nearly doubled the risk and 19 to 30 drinks in a week elevated the risk by up to six times more.
Heavy drinking is typically described as consuming 15 or more drinks per week for men, and more than 8 drinks per week for women. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
“Just after drinking, blood pressure rises and blood platelets become stickier, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes,” Mostofsky said. “However, regularly drinking small amounts of alcohol in the long term appears to both increase levels of HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein cholesterol), the so-called good cholesterol, and reduce the tendency to form blood clots.”
The study is published in the journal Circulation.
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