Light Drinking Such as About Half Glass of Wine May Expand Your Life

Light Drinking Such as About Half Glass of Wine May Expand Your Life

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented.

Drinking alcohol is very common in our society. However, alcohol can affect your health. Some people should not drink at all. You should not drink alcohol if you:

If you drink too much alcohol, you risk having physical and mental health problems. This is especially true for older adults, who often have other medical problems. There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. More studies are being done on the possible benefits wine (particularly red wine) may have on heart disease. However, it is a very controversial topic.

There is some evidence from population based studies that people who drink moderately may be less likely to develop heart disease than nondrinkers. However, drinking alcohol has been linked to high blood pressure , cancer , stroke , suicide , motor vehicle accidents, physical abuse, obesity , heart failure , arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms), pancreatitis , and liver disease . In addition, although some studies suggest that alcohol may raise HDL (the good kind of cholesterol), it also raises triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).

Excessive alcohol use can raise your blood pressure to an unhealthy level. Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure by two to four points and their diastolic pressure by one to two points.If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink it in moderation. Moderate drinking is two drinks a day if you're a man younger than age 65 or one drink a day if you're a woman or older than age 65. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof whiskey.

These tried and true methods have much more scientific proof than drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, There is some evidence that drinking red wine may reduce the risk of heart disease. But this benefit is most likely due to other factors such as antioxidants called flavonoids found in red wine. Grapes and red grape juice also contain flavonoids, more physical activity in countries that drink wine regularly, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables. There is also a substance in alcohol known as resveratrol which may reduce blood clot formation.

Having just under a glass of wine a day cuts men's risk of dying from cardiovascular problems and all other causes and may help them live years longer, Dutch researchers report.

"Consumers who already drink should do so lightly, 1 to 2 glasses per day, and preferably drink wine," advises study co-author Marga Ocke, a researcher at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Ocke and her colleagues presented the research at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Orlando, Fla..

Many other studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake is linked with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease in men and women, but whether one type of alcoholic beverage is better than another has been debated.

Ocke's team evaluated 1,373 men, all part of the Zutphen Study, who were born between 1900 and 1920 and surveyed in detail about alcohol consumption seven times over 40 years. Zutphen is the industrial town in the eastern Netherlands where the men all lived.

The participants were followed until they died or until their final interview, taken in mid-2000. They were asked about their drinking habits, dietary habits, their body mass index (BMI), smoking habits, and whether they had suffered heart attack, stroke, diabetes or cancer.

Alcohol consumption statistics were adjusted to account for other risk factors.

Compared to no drinking, light alcohol intake was linked with a 36 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 34 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease in particular. "Light" drinking was defined as less than or equal to 20 grams a day of alcohol (one glass of alcoholic beverage contains 10 grams of alcohol).

The reduced risk associated with wine drinking was greater than that associated with other alcoholic beverages. Those who drank about 1.5 ounces of wine -- about half a glass -- long term, had a 40 percent lower rate of death from all causes and a 48 percent lower incidence of death from cardiovascular disease, compared to non-wine drinkers.

Wine drinkers in the study had a life expectancy that was nearly four years longer compared to the abstainers. And wine drinkers lived, on average, more than two years longer than drinkers of either beer or hard liquor. Overall, men who drank a little alcohol of any type over the long term (less than or equal to 20 grams daily) lived 1.6 years longer than teetotalers, the Dutch team found.

It was difficult to tell whether the type of wine -- red or white -- made a difference. "In the present study, we didn't divide wine drinkers into red or white, but 70 percent of all wine consumed was red wine," Ocke said.

Ocke conceded that studies such as this have gone back and forth about which beverage is best, but she believes her study may have extra credibility. Most studies, she said, assume that drinking patterns are relatively constant. But in real life, patterns change.

In their study, Ocke's team found that the number of alcohol users nearly doubled from 45 percent in 1960 to 85 percent in the 2000 survey. Consumption patterns varied, too, which her study took into account.

Even so, Ocke said that more studies are needed to verify the results.

The researchers stressed that they only uncovered an association between light drinking and healthier, longer lives -- it does not prove that the drinking was the cause of that boost in health. Still, they speculate that the alcohol might increase so-called "good" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or it might help reduce blood clotting linked to stroke.It is important to know, however, that even light drinking can lead to addiction.

The new study is "more comprehensive" than previous research, said Matt Kaeberlein, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Washington, Seattle, School of Medicine. The group studied was large, he added, which also lends credibility. "It gives you confidence in the statistics," he said.

Another study presented at the same conference had good news for nonsmoking coffee drinkers.

The study, by a team from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., evaluated more than 127,00 people who came in for exams from 1978 to 1985. Nearly 59,000 had never smoked. Researchers then looked at the more than 8,300 people hospitalized for coronary artery disease.

They found a higher cardiovascular risk for heavy coffee drinkers who smoked or used to smoke. Former and current smokers who were heavy coffee drinkers -- six cups a day or more -- had almost a 50 percent higher risk of coronary artery disease, they noted.

Coffee drinking was not associated with a risk of coronary artery disease in nonsmokers, the researchers said..

Before you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, even in moderate amounts, talk with your health care provider. Your provider can help you determine what is best for your health.


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