Ask a Doctor: Benefits of drinking alcohol – Wausau Daily Herald

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Question: Is alcohol good or bad for you?

Answer: I hear this question often, even among patients with known heart problems, so I have researched the subject. Based on that, and on my own observations of local patients for more than 25 years, the short answer is that four to five alcoholic drinks per week provide the maximum protection to your heart. Those who can’t or do not wish to drink alcohol may benefit from drinking red grape juice instead.

On the other hand, heavy drinking, or more than three to four drinks per day, is a very bad idea for a number of health reasons. Heavy drinking leads to higher death rates, high blood pressure, cancer and various heart conditions.

I believe it’s best to limit the frequency for alcoholic beverages to four drinks per week, spread out over the week and not consumed at the same time. I don’t think it matters if you drink beer, alcohol or wine, but some studies show a slightly higher benefit from red wine. In that case, four to five half-glasses of red wine per week would provide the most benefit. Beer drinkers may not be as satisfied with just one serving.

Research clearly shows the benefits of light drinking for people who have coronary artery disease, or narrowed blood vessels due to build-up of plaque, or congestive heart failure. Light drinking also does not appear to increase your risk of stroke, although heavy drinking certainly does.

Women may have slightly less tolerance than men, and the rate of breast cancer appears to increase with heavier drinking. For those reasons, men may have one to two drinks per day while women may have only up to one drink per day.

The amount of alcohol in a drink can vary substantially, and …read more

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