It seems that one of the media’s favourite stories is to report how drinking red wine is good for our hearts. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to drink for my health - so, like others, I’m happy to jump on the idea that it can be beneficial. But, is there any truth to it? Well, yes and no.The alcohol in red wine has been shown to increase the level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol (reduces the deposits that narrow arteries) and helps prevent blood clots that can close off arteries which can lead to a heart attack. What’s often left out of these stories though is the context in which we’re drinking. It’s important to know that the protective effects of alcohol depend on a number of factors:
- Red wine only gives you health benefits if you drink within the low risk drinking guidelines (e.g. number of drinks to reduce risks).
- Beyond the recommended limits, alcohol’s potential benefits on the heart are outweighed by the risks of getting other alcohol-related illnesses, such as liver disease or cancer. Also, any protective benefits on the heart generally only work on those over the age of 45.
And it isn’t just red wine - the alcohol in beer and other spirits have also been shown to provide these protective effects. But before you pick up a glass, know that alcohol’s protective effects are small compared to other things you can do (and should do first) to prevent heart disease - a healthy diet, regular exercise and quitting smoking. Cheers!
Now that you know the answer to this question, what other alcohol-related myths are on your mind?
Haley Miller is a policy analyst at the BC Ministry of Health. Part of her work portfolio includes reducing the harms related to alcohol, and part of her downtime is researching for her work. Thanks for contributing as a guest blogger, Haley!