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Moderate drinkers at less risk for hear failure than non-drinkers, but researchers warn against developing a habit for health purposes. Pixabay

If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate Thirsty Thursday, here’s a science-backed excuse: having a drink may reduce your risk of heart disease. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and University College London found that moderate drinking may lower the risk of certain cardiovascular conditions like heart failure and angina, a type of chest pain that could indicate heart disease.

Scientists studied the relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular diseases by analyzing health records for roughly 1.93 million UK adults. Participants were healthy, free of heart problems and at least 30 years old. The team identified five types of drinkers and looked at how their alcohol preferences were linked with different heart conditions, specifically, which conditions they were likely to develop first.

The five drinking styles included non, former, occasional, moderate, heavy and hazardous. A moderate drinker is considered one who drinks within the UK’s recommended sensible limit, which is 14 units per week. For example, two units is the equivalent of a pint of low-strength (ABV 3.6%) beer like Heineken Light or a six ounce glass of wine.

Researchers found that moderate drinkers had a lower risk of several heart problems, including heart attacks and ischaemic stroke, the most common type of stroke accounting for about 87 percent of all cases.

“This doesn’t mean that it is advisable for individuals to take up drinking as a means of lowering their cardiovascular risk,” says Dr. Steven Bell, Ph.D and study co-author, in a statement. “Alcohol consumption is associated with other diseases, such as liver disease and certain types of cancer. There are other, safer and more effective ways, such as being more physically active, maintaining a healthy diet and stopping smoking.”

Heavy drinkers were more likely to be diagnosed with heart failure, cardiac arrest and ischaemic stroke, compared to moderate drinkers, though their heart attack risk was lower. However, the researchers stress that this doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually suffer a heart attack - it’s just less likely to be the first heart problem they develop.

As an observational study, there is no real conclusion about the cause and effect for the findings. However, this is one of the few large-scale studies looking at the relationship between various consumption levels and cardiovascular problems. Past research indicates that beer may slow the decline of “good” cholesterol and the antioxidants in wine have been widely touted.

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