Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Cheers! Moderate Drinking May Help Prevent Blood Clots

By Dianne Partie Lange
WebMD Health News

April 26, 2000 -- As with food and exercise, moderation is key to reaping the benefits of drinking alcohol. And, yes, there are benefits. Studies have shown men and women, middle-aged or older who have one or two drinks per day have lower death rates from heart disease than both teetotalers and those who drink three drinks or more a day. Part of the reason is that alcohol seems to increase the concentration of heart-healthy HDL (or "good") cholesterol. Another benefit, according to a new study, is that a moderate amount of alcohol acts as a kind of blood thinner.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., discovered that the alcohol equivalent of two drinks decreases the clumping together of platelets, cells that are essential to blood clotting. This is important because the formation of a blood clot that blocks an artery leading to the heart is the triggering event in a heart attack.

This new research may also partially explain the so-called French paradox, which is the fact the French have less heart disease than Americans, despite the fact that they eat high-fat foods. Ingredients in red wine, which the French also enjoy as part of their culture, are thought to be partially responsible.

"Whether it's red wine or alcohol has not really been addressed," Adam K. Myers, PhD, tells WebMD. He adds that it may be an effect of alcohol mixed with the substances found in grapes.

Myers and his colleagues also found that these effects of alcohol on blood clotting were greater in women than men. "The differences between men and women really is a surprise, and it's going to be an important issue to think about in the future," Myers explains, adding that scientists need to be aware that there may be gender and racial differences in people's responses to alcohol.

The participants in the study were given enough grain alcohol mixed in a soft drink to equal either one or two drinks of alcohol. Their blood was then drawn one hour after the drink to test the alcohol level in the body and to see what effects there were on blood clotting. One drink did not have a significant effect, but the higher dose prevented the platelets from sticking together and clotting. Whether the effect would last is unknown. Myers says they were only looking at a single dose of alcohol, and any effects after this point will need further study. He is professor and director of graduate studies in the department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Myers is not suggesting that people who don't drink should start, but, he says, from the point of view of protecting against heart disease, "I would suggest that moderate drinking ? and no binge drinking ? is probably not harmful. I would not leap to conclusions about any particular beneficial effect of drinking in general or drinking any specific type of beverage."

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
heart rate graph
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
empty football helmet
Article
Heart Valve
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW