Alcohol and the Heart

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Two new studies have added to the evidence that drinking a little alcohol each day is good for the heart. Earlier studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol reduces the chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke caused by thickening of the blood.

The new studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. One group of researchers was from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. They questioned almost two-thousand patients at forty-five hospitals. All the patients had just suffered heart attacks. The researchers asked them how much alcohol they drank in the year before the heart attack. Those who had fewer than seven alcoholic drinks a week were considered light drinkers. Those who had more than seven drinks a week were considered moderate drinkers.

The researchers studied the patients' health for the next four years. At the end of that time, the light drinkers had a twenty-one percent lower chance of dying from a heart attack than those who never drank at all. The moderate drinkers had a thirty-two percent lower chance of dying than those who never drank. The drinkers survived mostly because they had fewer additional heart attacks.

The other study involved more than two-thousand older men and women. Their average age was seventy-four. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia asked them how much alcohol they drank. The researchers studied the health of these people for up to fourteen years. They found that those who had one or two drinks each day were twenty to fifty percent less likely to develop heart failure than those who did not drink.

Both studies found no difference in survival among people who drank beer, wine or liquor.

Arthur Klatsky is a heart doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, California. Doctor Klatsky said both studies strengthen the idea that drinking a small amount of alcohol each day can protect the heart. Alcohol thins the blood and prevents clots that block arteries. It also increases the so-called good cholesterol in the blood that helps keep arteries open.

However, other health risks have been linked to moderate drinking. And Doctor Klatsky said heavy alcohol drinking is a sure way to damage your health.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English