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Alcohol lowers risk of heart disease by helping us relax, says study

Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol on a daily basis can lower the risk of fatal heart disease by helping people relax, according to a new study in the US.

People who reported moderate alcohol intake had a 20% lower chance of having a major heart event compared to those with a low alcohol intake. They also had a lower level of stress-related brain activity

The findings, which were reported this morning on the, showed that those who consume one or two alcoholic drinks a day have a 20% lower chance of suffering from a major cardiovascular event while also exhibiting reduced stress-related brain activity.

The research, which is being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session and has not yet been published in a journal, is based on a healthcare survey of more than 53,000 people in the US, who had an average age of 57.2 years, with just under 60% being women.

The study considered data from participants who self-reported their alcohol intake as ‘low’ – or less than one drink per week – ‘moderate’ (one to 14 drinks per week), or ‘high’, which was over 14.

It was found that around 15% of those studied experienced a serious cardiovascular event, with 17% in the low alcohol intake group and 13% among those who described themselves as moderate drinkers.

It was also found that those who drank 1-2 drinks on a daily basis had a lower-level of stress-related brain activity, suggesting that moderate alcohol reduces stress signals from the brain.

Dr Kenechukwu Mezue, who is a fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the research, said: “The current study suggests that moderate alcohol intake beneficially affects the brain-heart connection.”

Continuing he said, “We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately, while people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity.”

Concluding, he commented, “The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

However, having also pointed out that alcohol is connected with an increased risk of cancer and liver damage, he said that it was important to promote ways other than drinking for alleviating stress on the brain.

It was also noted that exercise is better than alcohol for the healthy functioning of the heart.

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