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Alcohol can lower risk of heart attack

Moderate alcohol consumption, as part of a healthy lifestyle, could help prevent four out of five heart attacks in men, according to a recent study.

More than 20,000 Swedish men, aged 45 to 79 years of age, were monitored over an 11 year period as part of the study carried out by scientists at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm.

Having assessed their lifestyle choices such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking status, level of physical activity and weight, the study found those with the lowest risk of experiencing a coronary event, and practised “low-risk” lifestyle choices, were non-smokers, walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes per day, exercised at least one hour per week, had a waist circumference below 95cm and consumed moderate amounts of alcohol.

This was coupled with a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish.

When combined with such lifestyle choices, moderate alcohol consumption was shown to have a positive impact reducing the risk of heart attacks in men.

Those who practiced a “low-risk” diet together with moderate alcohol consumption were 35% less likely to have a heart attack compared to the high-risk group, those who practice none of the low-risk factors.

While those who also didn’t smoke and were physically active were able to reduce their risk by 86%.

“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks,” said Agneta Akesson, PhD Associate Professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, and lead author of the study.

“What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”

She added: “It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health. However, the best thing one can do is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.”

The study’s authors argue that while mortality from heart disease has declined thanks to medical therapies, prevention through a healthy lifestyle can avoid the potential side effects of medication and is more cost effective.

US Federal guidelines define moderation drinking as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

A standard drink is defined as 1.5 fluid ounces (44ml) of 40% abv alcohol, 5 fluid ounces (147ml) of wine at 12% abv, or 12 fluid ounces (354ml) of regular beer at 5% abv.

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