Women who regularly consume an alcoholic drink or two have a significantly lower risk of having a non-fatal heart attack than women who are life-time abstainers, report medical researchers at the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo.
By comparing drinkers with life-time teetotalers, researchers eliminated the possibility that they were comparing drinkers with non-drinkers who stopped drinking because of heart or other health problems.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to lower the risk of heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI), but most research has been done with men. The current study of almost two thousand women compared alcohol drinking volume and drinking patterns of those who had been hospitalized due to a heart attack, with age-matched controls without heart problems.
Women who had a prior heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty, angina or a previous diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) were excluded from the study.
Results showed that in this population-based study, women who drank moderately had a significantly lower risk of heart attack than abstainers, and the benefits were greatest in women who had a drink daily. A lower risk for drinkers than abstainers also was evident in women who drank with food, as well as without, and in those who primarily drank wine or a variety of alcoholic beverages.
Similar associations were found when patterns and volume were analyzed among drinkers only. Among these women, drinking alcohol in moderation in general was more important than the actual amount consumed. However, getting drunk at least once a month puts women at an increased risk of heart attack.
These findings, which are consistent with other studies of alcohol and heart health of women, are very important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
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