Alcohol And Heart Health: Separating Fact From Fiction
Does a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? Theres a popular belief that alcohol especially red wine is good for the heart. But the truth isnt so clear-cut, says Johns Hopkins cardiologist John William McEvoy, M.B.B.Ch., M.H.S.
Heres what you should know before you raise a glass to your health.
Are You Serious About Reducing Cholesterol
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How Do Beer And Alcohol Affect Your Cholesterol
38 percent of Americans suffer from high cholesterol1, and many also consume large amounts of alcohol. While the two issues are not necessarily linkedsmoking, diet, and exercise are also major factorsthere does appear to be a connection between how much you drink and your cholesterol levels.
But is drinking always bad for your cholesterol? How much drinking is too much? Does alcohol raise cholesterol in every case, or could some types of alcohol actually be beneficial? Below, well discuss the facts around cholesterol and alcohol, and how to keep a healthy balance.
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What Is Blood Sugar
Blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is sugar thats carried to the cells through the bloodstream. Blood sugar generally refers to the concentration of sugar in your blood at a specific time.
We get sugar from the foods we eat, which is normal, and its the bodys job to regulate blood sugar levels, so they dont go too high or low. When a person has balanced blood sugar, its called homeostasis.
Throughout the day, its not uncommon for blood sugar levels to go up and down based on when you eat and how your body releases a hormone called insulin. If youve just eaten, your blood sugar levels will go up, and then theyll settle back down. If you have diabetes, however, your blood sugar levels may have to be specially managed.
If your blood sugar is always high, you have hyperglycemia, which can happen in people who dont have a good handle on their diabetes. If your blood sugar is below normal, its called hypoglycemia, and this can happen in diabetics if they accidentally use too much of their medication.
So, what role does alcohol play in all of this and how does alcohol affect blood sugar?
Wine Can Protect Your Brain From The Effects Of Alzheimers Disease And Dementia
Various studies over the years have shown significant reductions in Alzheimers disease, cognitive function, and dementia in those who moderately consume red wine.
For example, a research team at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles conducted a pilot study with men and women, ages 66 to 82, who had experienced mild cognitive decline for at least six months but who had not been diagnosed with AD or another type of dementia. Half of the participants were given a daily dose of a placeboan inactive substance, often in the form of a pill, that looks like but isnt actually medicine. The other half of the studys participants took a daily dose of freeze-dried grape powder equivalent to one-and-a-half glasses of wine.
After conducting various neurological tests, researchers found that the group that consumed the grape powder experienced no significant decline. In the case of the group taking placebos, the regions of the brain that typically decline when a person experiences the early stages of dementia actually did become less active.
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Red Wine: Good Or Bad
The health benefits of red wine have been debated for some time.
Many believe that a glass each day is a valuable part of a healthy diet, while others think wine is somewhat overrated.
Studies have repeatedly shown that moderate red wine consumption seems to lower the risk of several diseases, including heart disease.
However, there is a fine line between moderate and excessive intake.
This article takes a detailed look at red wine and its health effects.
Does Excessive Drinking Contribute To Heart Disease
Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including heart conditions. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke. Excessive drinking can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.
Whats more, alcohol can contribute to obesity and the long list of health problems that can go along with it, McEvoy says: Alcohol is a source of excess calories and a cause of weight gain that can be harmful in the long term.
The takeaway, McEvoy says, is what you probably already knew: If you choose to drink alcohol, stick to moderate levels of drinking, and dont overdo it. Were not talking about going out and drinking yourself merry and then expecting good heart outcomes, McEvoy says.
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How Often Can I Have White Wine Sangria For The Health Benefits
In order to get the most out of this sangria recipe as far as health benefits go, I would recommend simply sticking with one or two drinks per day.
Personally, I stick with one glass daily throughout the week and then I have 2 in the evenings after dinner on the weekend. This means I get to enjoy a tasty drink every day while also keeping my heart health on pointtalk about a win-win.
Eat More Plant Sources Of Protein
Excellent plant proteins include beans all beans, like lentils, red beans, pinto beans, and soybeans. Rather than raising blood cholesterol levels, as animal sources of protein do, beans actually help lower cholesterol.
Beans also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, and may even lower cancer risk.
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Where Does All The Extra Cholesterol Come From
While your body makes all the cholesterol you need, you also get some from your diet. Cholesterol is found in animal-derived foods such as beef, chicken, fish, and cheese. Because of this, it was long thought that dietary cholesterol contributed to elevated blood cholesterol.
We used to recommend that patients limit their consumption of foods like eggs yolks if they had high cholesterol. We now know that dietary cholesterol in the amounts Americans typically consume has very little influence on blood cholesterol levels.
Hemodynamic Measurements And Sympathetic Activity
Before red wine intake, systolic BP was significantly higher in the AH group compared with controls. Also, diastolic BP was nonsignificantly higher in the AH group than in the other groups, and, as expected, mean BP was significantly higher in the AH group than in the other groups .2). This finding was not associated with significant differences in resting MSNA among the three groups .
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Will Quitting Alcohol Lower My Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, quitting or cutting back on alcohol can certainly help lower it, and improve your heart health more generally. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control lists cutting back on alcohol as a way to prevent or manage high cholesterol9.
Other ways to lower your cholesterol include getting regular exercise, eating a healthier diet, and quitting smoking. Of course, if youre concerned about your cholesterol levels, we also recommend discussing your habits with your doctor.
If cutting back on alcohol proves challenging, the good news is that there are easier, more flexible options than before. Ria Health offers online support to reduce or quit drinking from an app on your smartphone. We support everyone from heavy to occasional drinkersyou dont need to identify as an alcoholic to join.
So If I Have Diabetes I Can Drink As Usual
Not quite. People with diabetes need to be extra careful with alcohol.
Alcohol intake significantly increases the risk of . If your diabetes is already well under control, a moderate amount of alcohol may be fine either before, during or soon after a meal.
Even if you have a drink, this may not influence short-term blood glucose levels. However, there are some precautions to be taken care of.
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How Much Red Wine Is Good For Your Heart
In order to receive the heart health benefits of red wine, the American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men. For reference, one drink is equal to five ounces, or 140ml of wine.
Drinking too much wine, or any type of alcohol in excess, is very bad for your heart, says Robert A. Kloner MD, PhD, Chief Science Officer of Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Pasadena, California and Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
That’s because too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure and raise levels of triglycerides, which will increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Excessive drinking can also lead to heart failure a disease which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood around your body and atrial fibrillation, which is a type of arrhythmia where the heart beats quickly and irregularly.
Read more to learn about how different levels of alcohol consumption affect the heart.
Red Wine And Grape Juice
Alcohol may raise levels of good HDL cholesterol by as much as 5 to 15 percent, research shows and red wine is particularly beneficial because its polyphenol antioxidants may also lower LDL levels. If youre not into vino, grape juice can provide some of the same heart-healthy benefits.
Try this: Stick to one 5-oz glass of wine a day for women and two for men. For grape juice, Smithson suggests 8 oz per day of purple grape juice for women and 16 oz a day for men pick 100 percent fruit juice, not the sugar-added varieties. You can also snack on purple or red grapes, which contain the same antioxidants with the added benefit of fiber, notes Smithson.
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If Lifestyle Changes Arent Enough
Take medications, if you need to, to lower your cholesterol into healthy ranges. Drugs like statins can be very effective, says Dr. Danine Fruge, MD, ABFP – Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center, but do continue in your efforts to eat well and exercise because a healthy lifestyle can give you far, far more than drugs alone.
With a healthy living program like Pritikin, youre not only reducing cholesterol quickly, youre also creating changes throughout your body that can profoundly improve your overall well-being. Youre reducing blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Other heart disease risk factors like triglyceride fats are also dropping dramatically. Youre also reducing inflammatory factors that sicken arteries. Youre shedding excess weight. And, quite simply, youre feeling better, much better. Many of our guests at Pritikin tell us, I had no idea I could feel this good again.
Can any pill or combination of pills do all of the above? I highly doubt it. But a healthy lifestyle like Pritikin can.
Surprising Side Effects Wine Has On Your Heart Says Science
We’ve all heard that a glass of wine, especially red wine, is heart-healthy. In fact, wine, like extra virgin olive oil, is featured prominently in the Mediterranean diet, which is considered the gold standard for how to eat to reduce the risk for heart disease. However, newer research suggests that the relationship between wine and cardiovascular biomarkers is more nuanced.
Since alcohol dependency is a real threat whenever you enjoy an adult beverage, experts are providing more specifics around how wine can help your heartas well as how it can harm it. The heart-health benefits of vino are only associated with low to moderate intake , and with the threat of dependency and adverse health outcomes, health professionals don’t recommend that you start drinking if you are an abstainer.
“It’s unclear whether red wine is directly associated with this benefit or whether other factors are at play,” said Dr. Robert Kloner, chief science officer and director of cardiovascular research at Huntington Medical Research Institutes and a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California in an American Heart Association press release. “It might be that wine drinkers are more likely to have a healthier lifestyle and a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be cardioprotective,” he added.
Here’s everything you need to know about wine and your heart. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
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It Wears On Your Entire Body
Regular drinking is not only going to make your blood sugars more difficult to control, its going to wear on your liver and your kidneys, both of which are already under greater stress if your blood sugars are higher than ideal.
If you already have diagnosed retinopathy in your eyes, regular drinking can worsen the health of the nerves and blood vessels in your eyes.
The long-term effects of regular alcohol consumption are well documented, but for people with diabetes, anything wears on us more noticeably because our body is already experiencing higher levels of inflammation along with blood vessel and nerve damage due to non-diabetic blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people living with diabetes follow the general guidelines for alcohol consumption:
- Men: No more than 2 drinks per day on average
- Women: No more than 1 drink per day on average
What Is Red Wine And How Is It Made
Red wine is made by crushing and fermenting dark-colored, whole grapes.
There are many types of red wine, which vary in taste and color. Common varieties include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir and Zinfandel.
The alcohol content usually ranges from 1215%.
Consuming moderate amounts of red wine has been shown to have health benefits. This is mainly due to its high content of powerful antioxidants.
The alcohol in wine is also believed to contribute some of the benefits of moderate wine consumption .
Red wine is made by fermenting dark-colored, whole grapes. It is high in antioxidants, and drinking moderate amounts has been shown to be good for health.
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Wine Has Been Shown To Be Safe Forand Beneficial Todiabetics
A recent study measured the blood sugar levels of more than 200 people living with type 2 diabetes. The subjects drank either wine or mineral water daily with a dinner based on the Mediterranean diet. For those who metabolize alcohol slowly, the participants who drank red or white wine saw beneficial effects on blood sugar compared to those who drank mineral water. They also experienced a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose and an improved measure of insulin resistance.
Understanding Red Wines Nutrition
Evaluating the nutritional value of red wine is about more than checking its glycemic index and calories. A 5-ounce serving of red table wine has 3.8 grams of carbohydrates and 0.9 gram of sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database. The drink has trace amounts of minerals and vitamins, but is not a significant source of any of them.
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What Qualifies As High Cholesterol
In general, the following cholesterol levels are considered normal in healthy individuals4:
- Total Cholesterol: Below 200 milligrams per deciliter
- LDL: Less than 130 mg/dL
- HDL: More than 40 mg/dL
Overall cholesterol above 240 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol at 160 mg/dL or above is considered high. LDL at 190 mg/dL or higher is considered very high. Such levels put people at risk for blood clots, chest pain, heart attack, and stroke.
How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Drink
To stay in good health and avoid illness, the government recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, for men and women. To keep the risks down:
- spread your units out across the week
- have some alcohol-free days
- avoid drinking more than six units in six hours, which counts as binge drinking thats less than three 175ml glasses of wine or three pints of beer.
If you have high cholesterol or FH, it should be OK to drink alcohol within these limits. There are some health problems and treatments which can mean its safer to avoid alcohol all together. Speak to your doctor or nurse about whats safe for you.
In the past, it was thought that drinking in moderation was good for your heart. Its now believed that the only possible benefits are for women over 55 when drinking 5 units a week or less, and the benefits are modest.
We dont recommend drinking alcohol to improve your health, as you will improve your health more by eating well and being active. With alcohol, the cons could out way the pros.
How much is a unit of alcohol?
A unit of alcohol is roughly the amount your body can clear from your blood in one hour. Its the equivalent of 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.
Different drinks contain different amounts of alcohol, as some are stronger than others. For example, a 175ml glass of wine can contain anywhere between 1.9 and 2.4 units. It can be surprising how many units are in your favorite drinks, and how quickly they add up.
14 units is roughly:
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