Two new studies were presented yesterday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Chicago. According to the Wall Street Journal, “[b]oth studies, by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard University, used data from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, which started in 1976 and involves more than 200,000 women.”
The results of the two studies, and additional ones presented at the meeting, included findings that suggest “women might not have to limit themselves to the [previous] one-drink-a-day guideline.” Also, “[w]omen who have an alcoholic drink or two a day in midlife turn out to be healthier overall in their old age. Another study presented at the conference showed that women who had a daily drink had a lower risk of stroke.”
From the Wall Street Journal:
The research into stroke risk looked at 73,450 women who were free of heart disease and cancer when they entered the study. They were followed from 1984 to 2006. Women who had up to one drink a day had a 20% reduction in stroke risk compared with non-drinkers. There was no impact on stroke risk among most women who drank larger amounts, such as two or three drinks daily. But women who were also on hormone-replacement therapy and who had two drinks a day had an increased stroke risk.
A third study released at the conference by researchers at the University of Rome in La Sapienza, Italy, showed that two to three drinks daily among male heart-bypass-surgery patients was associated with a 25% decline in the rate of subsequent cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes compared to non-drinkers. But the risk of dying increased among people who had four or more drinks daily and had a particular heart problem affecting the left ventricle. The study involved more than 1,000 patients followed for about 3.5 years.
Women who had about two drinks daily also had fewer cardiovascular problems after bypass surgery but the benefit was smaller than seen in men. The researchers said many patients had wondered if they should stop drinking after bypass surgery so a study was designed to look at clinical outcomes among drinkers and non-drinkers.
While they caution that the jury’s still out on certain diseases that affect women, such as breast cancer, the overall effect of moderate drinking remains a positive force on total mortality. This new evidence, along with the mountain that precedes it, highlights yet more reasons why the Breast Cancer Action organization’s churlish denunciation of all alcohol companies in October was so obnoxious and wrong, which I wrote about at length in Biting the Hand That Feeds You.
One of the studies showed more evidence to confirm the prevailing theory that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol will keep you healthier, increasing the odds that you’ll live to a more advanced age than a person who abstains.
Qi Sun, a Harvard medical instructor, looked at nearly 14,000 women who had survived to age 70. Dr. Sun said he found that 1,499 of the women were free of major diseases like cancer and heart disease and had no physical impairments or memory problems. He looked at the amount of drinking these women had done at midlife, or about age 58 on average. Women who reported having one to two drinks most days of the week had a 28% increase in the chance of “successfully surviving” to at least age 70 compared with non-drinkers. Like other studies, Dr. Sun found women drinking most days of the week were more likely to be healthier than women who drank one or two days a week.
That’s advice my wife follows faithfully. Glad to know she’ll probably outlive me.