It appears that the odd drink may actually help protect your heart. New research shows that people with high blood pressure (hypertension) who drink moderately may actually reduce their risk of heart failure.
In a study of men enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study I, consuming low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol appeared to reduce the risk of heart failure in subjects with high blood pressure, or hypertension.
This is the first study to report such an association, Dr Luc Djousse and Dr J. Michael Gaziano from Harvard Medical School in Boston state in their report, published in the American Journal of Cardiology. Moreover, they add, the findings show that it applies to patients with or without antecedent MI or diabetes.
Prior research has tied alcohol use to elevated blood pressure, and heavy consumption to enlargement of the heart, but whether drinking in light-to-moderate amounts raised the odds of heart failure in hypertensive patients has been unclear.
How the study was done
Dr's Djousse and Gaziano addressed this question by analysing data from 5 153 hypertensive subjects enrolled in PHS I. These subjects, who were followed for an average of 18 years, had no history of stroke, MI, or major cancers at enrollment. The average age of the cohort was 58 years.
Compared with subjects who consumed less than one drink per week, those who consumed greater amounts were between 11% (one to four drinks/week) and 62% (eight or more drinks/week) less likely to develop heart failure. These findings were still significant after the data were adjusted to account for the influence of variables that could alter the outcome.
Exactly how alcohol use prevents heart failure in hypertensive individuals is unclear. One possibility is that alcohol's diuretic effect may prevent volume overload, the authors speculate.
Another possible mechanism is that alcohol increases plasma levels of adiponectin, which has been shown to reduced heart disease in animal studies. There is also evidence that adiponectin can reduce the risk of heart attack. – (Reuters Health, September 2008)
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