Middle-aged and older women who drink moderately throughout the week are less likely to develop health issues linked to aging like cognitive decline, heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study.

The study is fairly limited in its scope, as the nearly 14,000 subjects it followed beginning in 1976 were exclusively white women. But the results confirmed that women in their late 50's who imbibed the equivalent of a drink a day fared far better than their abstemious counterparts by the age of 70, with their chances of suffering from chronic health defects reduced by up to 28 percent.

Qi Sun, the lead author of the study and a nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that the benefits of light drinking can include reduced inflammation, strengthened resistance to insulin and healthier cholesterol levels -- all factors that contribute to chronic diseases. Sun added that drinking is not a panacea, noting that healthy habits like exercising regularly are more important for overall health.

If you are physically active, if you have a healthy body weight at midlife, you can have much better odds of achieving successful aging, Sun said. You don't have to use moderate alcohol consumption as a way to help achieve healthy aging.

Moderation seemed to be the key. Women who concentrated their drinking in one or two days of the week exhibited none of the gains of women who spread the same amount of drinking out over the course of an entire week. Women who drank small amounts five to seven days a week were up to 50 percent less likely to develop a disease.

There are numerous overlapping factors that make it very difficult to tease out what aspect [of drinking] is good for you from a study like this, Arun Karlamangla an associate professor of geriatrics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, told CNN. But the results still seemed fairly clear.

I think there's enough data to say that drinking a small glass of wine a day is good for you, Karlamanga said.