Moderate alcohol consumption -- a glass of wine or a cocktail a day -- has been shown to help prevent heart disease, but a new study suggests that it might even be good for men who have had a heart attack.
Harvard researchers who tracked 1,818 male heart attack survivors for up to 20 years found that those who drank moderately were 42 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 34 percent less likely to die from any cause, compared to men who didn't drink alcohol at all.
By moderately, the researchers meant one or two glasses of beer or wine daily, or one or two shots of liquor.
Men who drank less than a drink a day had a 22 percent lower risk of death, but those who drank heavily -- three or more drinks a day -- saw no protective benefit.
"We're not telling people to drink if they don't already. But we can say that continuing to drink moderate amounts after a heart attack seems to be beneficial," lead author Jennifer Pai of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health told the New York Times.
Obviously, the study doesn't determine why -- or how -- a small amount of alcohol could have this protective effect, just that it apparently does.
In analyzing the data, researchers controlled for smoking, weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, aspirin use and other factors.
The men in the study were asked about their health every two years and every four years they filled out a detailed diet questionnaire that included their alcohol consumption. Over the course of the study, there were 468 deaths.
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