Six pints of beer a week linked with reduced risk of heart attack, study says

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Drinking almost a pint for every day of the week may help stave off the deathly effects of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a new study reveals.

Experts at University College London say drinking up to 105 grams of alcohol per week is linked with a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, angina or death among those with CVD. 

This is equivalent to 13 UK units of alcohol, which is less than six pints of medium-strength beer or just over a bottle of wine.  

However, the study authors were quick to stress that they’re not advising people with CVD conditions to start boozing if they don’t already.  

Drinking up to 105 grams of alcohol per week - equivalent to 13 UK units of alcohol, less than six pints of medium-strength beer or just over a bottle of wine - may be associated with a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, angina or death among those with cardiovascular disease (CVD), University College London experts say

Drinking up to 105 grams of alcohol per week – equivalent to 13 UK units of alcohol, less than six pints of medium-strength beer or just over a bottle of wine – may be associated with a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, angina or death among those with cardiovascular disease (CVD), University College London experts say

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.

CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. 

All heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease.

‘Our findings suggest that people with CVD may not need to stop drinking in order to prevent additional heart attacks, strokes or angina, but that they may wish to consider lowering their weekly alcohol intake,’ said study author Chengyi Ding.

‘As alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing other illnesses, those with CVD who do not drink should not be encouraged to take up drinking.’

The authors estimated the risk of heart attack, stroke, angina and death for 48,423 adults with CVD, using data obtained from the UK Biobank, the Health Survey for England, the Scottish Health Survey and from 12 previous studies.

Participants reported their average alcohol consumption. Data on subsequent heart attacks, strokes, angina or death, over a period of up to 20 years, was obtained from health, hospital admission and death registry records.  

Among people with CVD, those who drank up to 15 grams of alcohol per day – equivalent to less than two UK units – had a lower risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, angina or death, compared to those who did not drink alcohol. 

One unit is equal to half a pint of medium-strength beer or half a standard glass of wine. 

And those who drank more than 62 grams of alcohol per day – equivalent to less than eight UK units – did not have an increased risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, angina or death, compared to those who did not drink alcohol.

Cardiovascular disease is the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease

Cardiovascular disease is the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease 

UK DRINKING GUIDELINES 

The NHS advises men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week a week to avoid health risks.

For example, a bottle of lager would contain around 1.7 units, and a large glass of wine around three units.

A pint of strong lager contains 3 units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of low-strength lager has just over 2 units. 

 If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of long-term illness and injury, according to the Chief Medical Officers’ guideline.

The risk of developing a range of health problems (including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases the more you drink on a regular basis. 

Participants with the lowest risk of heart attack, stroke, angina or death drank between six and eight grams of alcohol per day – equivalent to less than one UK unit. 

Those who drank six grams of alcohol per day had a 50 per cent lower risk of recurrent heart attack, angina or stroke than those who did not drink. 

And those who drank eight grams per day had a 27 per cent lower risk of death due to heart attack, stroke or angina.

While those who drank seven grams per day had a 21 per cent lower risk of death due to any cause, compared to those who did not drink.   

The authors caution that their findings, published in BMC Medicine. may overestimate the reduced risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, angina and death for moderate drinkers with CVD. 

This is due to the under-representation of heavy drinkers and categorisation of former drinkers who may have quit drinking due to ill health as non-drinkers in some of the included datasets.  

The study follows a report in May from experts at Massachusetts General Hospital that concluded consuming a moderate amount of alcohol daily can reduce the risk of death for those with CVD.

The authors linked moderate alcohol intake – defined as no more than one alcoholic drink for women and two for men per day – with a 20 per cent lower risk of dying from CVD, in a sample of more than 50,000 people. 

Interestingly, this percentage decrease was in comparison to people from the sample who had low alcohol intake – defined as less than one drink a week. 

‘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,’ said study author Dr Kenechukwu Mezue at the time.  

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.

CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. 

All heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease.

CVD events include heart disease and stroke.  

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, taking around 17.9 million lives each year.

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