Daily Drink or Two Cuts Healthy Men's Heart Attack Risk
10.23.06, 12:00 AM ET
MONDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Research has shown that a drink or
two per day can reduce the odds of heart attack in people at risk.
Now, a new study suggests this benefit also extends to healthier men
who eat right and exercise.
The finding may help doctors feel a bit better about recommending
moderate drinking to a wider range of patients, experts say.
"Most of the discussion about moderate drinking has tended to say that
there are better ways to lower one's heart disease risk than drinking
alcohol," said lead author Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate in
medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. "But what
about men who are already doing those other things?" he said.
His team published their findings in the Oct. 23 issue of the Archives
of Internal Medicine.
In the study, Mukamal's team collected data on alcohol and heart
attacks among nearly 9,000 healthy men enrolled in the Health
Professionals Follow-up Study. During the study, the men completed
questionnaires about their diet and alcohol use. All these men were
nonsmokers, ate a healthful diet, exercised at least 30 minutes a day
and were not overweight.
From 1986 to 2002, 106 of the men had heart attacks. Of these men,
eight were among the 1,282 who drank about two drinks a day, nine were
among the 714 who had over two drinks a day, and 28 were among the
1,889 men who did not drink at all.
The men who had two drinks a day had the lowest risk for heart attack,
while those who didn't drink had the highest risk, the researchers
found. Twenty-five percent of the heart attacks were among men who
drank less than 5 grams of alcohol a day.
Given these findings, Mukamal thinks that guidelines about drinking
and heart disease need to be rethought to take into account the
benefit of alcohol on healthy men. He also believes the same benefit
will be seen among healthy women.
Still, Mukamal is cautious about recommending that nondrinkers start drinking.
"I don't think people should begin drinking based on a finding like
ours," he said. "Heart disease is only one of the diseases that people
can develop. This study doesn't take into account cancer or any other
illness," he said.
Two other experts say they have begun recommending moderate alcohol
use to their patients, however.
"Physicians have been leery about suggesting to people that they
drink," said Dr. Richard A. Stein, a clinical professor of medicine at
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City. "What I ask
patients is: 'Do you drink routinely?' If so, then I would continue to
drink the equivalent of two drinks for a man and one drink for a
Stein does, however, routinely recommend a drink a day to people who
have already had a heart attack. "Generally, I have begun to do that
because the studies have been very powerful in suggesting that alcohol
reduces risk of heart attack," he added.
"There now have been numerous convincing studies showing that alcohol
consumption lowers the risk of having a heart attack," added Dr. Byron
K. Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of
California, San Francisco, Division of Cardiology.
However, doctors are reluctant to recommend it to their patients, Lee
said. "Nevertheless, patients should be informed of the facts. I tell
all my patients that, in terms of preventing heart attacks, a moderate
amount of alcohol is probably good," he said.