More than 100 observational studies show that regularly drinking small amounts of alcohol appears to improve cardiac health by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the good cholesterol, and decreasing risk of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disease. Moderate drinking also appears to reduce the body’s tendency to form blood clots, therefore lowering risk of ischemic stroke. Other health benefits include a lessened risk of diabetes.

Many of these studies report that the relationship between the amount of alcohol intake and health risk follows a J-shaped curve, showing health benefits among moderate drinkers but long-lasting health risks among heavy drinkers.

“If you don’t drink, there is no recommendation that you should start,” says Mostofsky, an epidemiology instructor.

“But if you do drink, do so in moderation, and pay attention to how much and how often.”

 

Moderate drinking for men is defined as one to two drinks per day, and for women it’s one drink per d

ay, with health benefits from drinking three to seven days per week. One drink equals a 12-ounce beer (5 percent alcohol), a 4-ounce glass of wine (12 percent alcohol), 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits such as tequila or rum (40 percent alcohol) or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits (50 percent alcohol), according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

“All types of alcohol have been shown to be associated with lower risk of heart attacks,” Mostofsky says, “so drinking beer, wine or liquor can be beneficial as long as it is in moderation.” Do keep in mind that drink mixers, especially those high in sugar, can reduce the health benefits of your drink choice.

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