Ever heard someone say that a bit of alcohol is good for the heart? Can a few alcoholic drinks really be good for your heart? Cider, beer, whiskey, rum, champagne, palm wine, red or white wine, the list is endless. Should you drink or not?
You may have come across certain studies suggesting that moderate alcohol consumption may raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, prevent damage caused by LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, among others. These studies are however inconclusive on whether those healthy effects come from the alcohol or from other good lifestyle choices that light drinkers make.
Red wine, in particular, is widely credited for its resveratrol content. Resveratrol has been touted as a natural way to slow aging and fight cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The benefits of resveratrol in humans has been widely debated and is still being researched into. Should you desire to improve your resveratrol intake, red wine is certainly not your only option. Grapes, cranberries and even peanuts and cocoa also contain resveratrol.
If you don’t drink, your heart is definitely not a good enough reason to start. It is rather a good reason to stop drinking. Alcohol use is particularly harmful to people who have:
- a family history of alcohol abuse or of liver disease or pancreatitis
- heart failure, cardiomyopathy, uncontrolled high BP, arrhythmia, history of sudden cardiac death or stroke or high triglyceride levels (you will know from your lipid profile test
- had a heart attack. Alcohol can cause further damage to heart muscle.
- Alcohol affects your blood glucose level.
Heavy drinking makes it more likely for one to develop serious health problems like liver disease, cancer, peptic ulcer, among others. Regular or high alcohol use can also hurt the heart and lead to diseases of the heart muscle, known as cardiomyopathy. Drinking alcohol regularly can also raise blood pressure.
The best way to prevent the harmful effects of alcohol use is to keep your drinking light or moderate. Moderate drinking means an average of two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. There is the same amount of alcohol in each standard drink: one regular beer, a glass of wine and a shot of spirits.