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Menopause Health Center

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Alcohol Can Help Women's Hearts Too

Moderate Drinking Might Prevent Heart Disease in Older Women as Well as Men

WebMD Health News

Sept. 16, 2002 -- Women may have just as much reason as men to toast their heart health with their favorite beverage. A new study suggests that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol might protect against heart disease in postmenopausal women much in the same way it has been shown to benefit men.

Moderate alcohol consumption, generally defined as two drinks per day for men and one for women, already has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack in men by raising the level of HDL "good" cholesterol in the blood as well as boosting other healthy elements in the blood.

But few studies have specifically compared the effects of alcohol consumption on HDL in both middle-aged men and postmenopausal women. In this study, 10 men aged 45-64 and nine women aged 49-62 drank either regular beer or non-alcoholic beer for three weeks. They then switched beverages for another three weeks.

During the beer-drinking phase, the men drank four glasses of beer with their dinner, and the women drank three.

After 10 days of drinking alcohol, HDL cholesterol levels rose by an average of nearly 7% for both men and women. No such increase was found for those who drank non-alcoholic beer.

Study researcher Henk F. J. Hendriks, PhD of TNO Nutrition and Food Research in The Netherlands says these results are similar to those that have been found in men and associated with a lower risk for heart disease.

However, the researchers say these results are only preliminary, especially due to the small number of participants in the study.

Previous research suggests that a 1% increase in HDL cholesterol is linked to a 2% reduction in the risk of heart disease.

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