Over the past decades a number of studies published in science journals revealed that drinking alcohol is highly associated with reduced mortality due to heart disease in some populations. Some researchers say the benefits may be due to “red wine.”
The American Heart Association warns to not drink alcohol if you are a person taking Aspirin as prescribed by your doctor daily. It is also not possible to predict in which people that alcoholism will become a problem. If you drink more than moderately you increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents. Moderate drinking is two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (a drink being 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof sprits).
Given the risks involved with drinking alcohol the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking if they do not already drink alcohol for the benefit of reducing heart attacks.
Some researchers have examined the potential benefits of the components in red wine such as “flavonoids,” and other antioxidants in reducing heart disease risk. Some of these components may be found in other foods such as grapes or red grape juice. They also believe the link to red wine and reduced heart disease risks may be due to other lifestyle factors rather than alcohol. Those factors may include increased physical activity, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables and lower in saturated fats. There have been no direct comparison trials done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke at this time.
More research is being done to find out exactly what are the apparent benefits of drinking wine or alcohol in some populations. Some of the benefits are an increase in HDL (“the good”) cholesterol or anti-clotting properties. The American Heart Association says that even if it is proven that red wine or alcohol has a direct link to preventing heart disease the same antioxidants can be obtained from many fruits and vegetables including red grape juice.
The best known effect of alcohol is a small increase in HDL cholesterol. Regular physical activity is also effective in raising the HDL (good) cholesterol. Niacin can also be prescribed to raise the levels to an even greater degree.
Alcohol or some substances such as resveratrol found in alcoholic beverages may prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together, which may reduce clot formation and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association says Aspirin may help reduce blood clotting in a similar way.
The effects of alcohol and/or wine on the prevention of cardiovascular disease need further research. Right now, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain these potential benefits. The American Heart Association also recommends you talk to your doctor about the appropriate treatment for lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling your weight, getting enough exercise and following a healthy diet. There will be more studies and research of the effects of alcohol and/or wine on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, there is no scientific proof that drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage can replace these conventional measures.
There has also been a lot of research recently focused on how antioxidant vitamins may reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Antioxidant vitamins are E, C and beta carotene (a form of vitamin A). The data in these studies is incomplete. However, up to 30 percent of Americans are taking some form of antioxidant supplement.
The American Heart Association does not recommend antioxidant vitamin supplements until the studies are complete and data is available. At this time they recommend people continue to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods daily from all the basic food groups. Eat a variety of foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol to provide a natural source of these vitamins, minerals and fiber. Some studies even suggest that antioxidant supplement use could have harmful effects. Therefore, using dietary supplements of antioxidants to prevent cardiovascular disease should not be recommended until their effect is proved in clinical trials that directly test their impact on CVD and points.
At this time, the scientific evidence supports a diet high in food sources of antioxidants and other nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts instead of using antioxidant supplements to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
The recommendation for aspirin use in patients who have had a myocardial infarction (heart attack), unstable angina, ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attacks (little strokes) if based on sound evidence from clinical trials showing that aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of such events. Studies also show aspirin helps prevent these same events from occurring in people at high risk. However, you should not start taking aspirin daily without first talking to your doctor. There are risks and benefits that vary from person to person.
Of special note for people on aspirin therapy is to remember to mention your use and dosage if you undergo even the simplest of surgical procedures or dental extractions.
Patients who have heart disease should stop drinking alcohol and keep taking aspirin if their doctor prescribes aspirin as part of their treatment plan for their heart condition. Without prescription from a licensed doctor you should not stop taking aspirin.