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Heart Health Perks for New Drinkers?

Middle-aged people who start drinking moderate amounts of
alcohol, especially wine, may trim their risk of having a heart attack, stroke,
or other cardiovascular event.

That news comes from researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina
in Charleston, S.C. But they aren't telling teetotalers to start drinking.

"Caution is clearly warranted," the study states, because although
moderate drinking may help the heart, alcohol has other risks.

Dana E. King, MD, MS, and colleagues studied four years of data on nearly
7,700 adults aged 45-64.

Most participants -- 93.6% -- were teetotalers. But 6% had recently started
moderate drinking and the remaining 0.4% had recently begun drinking heavily.
It's not clear why they started drinking.

During the study, 680 patients died of cardiovascular disease, had a heart
attack or stroke, were diagnosed with coronary heart disease, or had a coronary
heart procedure.

Those patients included 6.9% of the new drinkers and 10.7% of the persistent
nondrinkers, King tells WebMD via email.

After considering age, physical activity, diabetes, cholesterol, blood
pressure, smoking, and BMI (body mass index), new drinkers were 38% less likely
to develop fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular problems or to get coronary heart

Wine stood out. New drinkers who said they only drank wine were 68% less
likely than nondrinkers to suffer fatal or nonfatal heart disease, compared to
those who didn't start drinking.

Moderate drinking wasn't linked to any change, for better or worse, in the
overall death rate; the benefits were only seen in heart health.

"A substantial cardiovascular benefit from adopting moderate alcohol
drinking in middle age appears to be supported by the current study,"
King's team writes, adding that "any such benefit must be weighed against
the known ill consequences of alcohol consumption."

The study may have been too short to show whether cancer deaths rose among
new drinkers, King's team notes.

The findings appear in The American Journal of Medicine.

(Have you tried nutrition
counseling to lower your cholesterol ? Would you? Join the discussion on the

Cholesterol Support Group board.)

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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