It’s understood that if we’re getting too little sleep or exercise, our bodies will feel the effects—and not in a good way. The small decisions we make on a daily basis, whether it’s brushing our teeth, taking our vitamins, or eating healthy, all contribute to our overall health in some way. Even the beverages we choose to drink play a role in how our bodies operate. And if you drinking too much of one beverage in particular, it could be putting your heart health on the line. Keep reading to discover what liquid refreshment you should be cutting back on.
A new study found that drinking alcohol twice a day could be putting your heart at risk.
A new study, which is set to be presented at a virtual event of The American College of Cardiology on May 17, found drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day—or 14 drinks every week—can negatively impact your heart. Researchers obtained data from the Mass General Brigham Biobank health care survey of 53,065 people, with most of the participants over the age of 50 and nearly 60 percent were women. They measured alcohol intake as low (less than one drink per week), moderate (one to 14 drinks per week), or high (more than 14 drinks per week).
While their findings largely looked at alcohol’s affect on your brain, they noted how it could impact heart health too. “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 had the highest level of stress-related brain activity,” Kenechukwu Mezue, MD, a fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Previous studies by our group and others have shown a robust association between heightened amygdalar activity and a higher risk of major adverse cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart attack, stroke or death.”
But moderate drinkers were 20 percent less likely to have a major heart event than non-drinkers.
After comparing alcohol consumption among the 53,064 participants, the researchers concluded that moderate drinkers in the study had a 20 percent lower chance of having a major heart event when compared to the low alcohol intake group. They also had less stress-related brain activity.
“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,” Mezue said in his statement.
The ACA explained in a statement that the findings “remained significant even after controlling for demographic variables, cardiovascular risk factors, socioeconomic variables and psychological factors.”
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However, the authors caution this should not be a green light to start drinking more.
The authors insist this study should “not encourage alcohol use.”
“The current study suggests that moderate alcohol intake beneficially impacts the brain-heart connection,” Mezue said. “However, alcohol has several important side effects, including an increased risk of cancer, liver damage and dependence, so other interventions with better side effect profiles that beneficially impact brain-heart pathways are needed.”
One example being exercise, which also decreases stress-associated brain activity, the authors noted.
Other research has shown that moderate drinking can harm your heart.
Not all science has pointed to this outcome, however. A recent study, published in the European Heart Journal on Jan. 12, found that just one small alcoholic beverage a day was linked to a 16 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate) over an average timespan of 14 years. The research examined data from 107,845 people between 1982 to 2010, who were involved in studies in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy and Denmark. Researchers calculated one glass of wine as 4 fluid ounces and a small beer as 11 fluid ounces—each containing 12 grams of ethanol.
According to Heart.org, atrial fibrillation that comes from even small amounts of regular alcohol consumption can lead to “blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.”