In fact, researchers say wine may be the key ingredient that helps explain why people with high blood pressure are more likely to die from heart disease in the U.S. than those with the same high blood pressure in the Mediterranean.
The study found that moderate wine drinkers at every level of blood pressure were significantly less likely to die from any cause during a 13- to 21-year follow-up period.
For example, moderate wine drinkers with an average systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure measurement) of 158 mm Hg had a 23% lower risk of death due to any cause than nondrinkers. Systolic blood pressure levels over 140 mm Hg and diastolic (the bottom number) levels over 90 mm Hg are considered high.
But drinking more than 60 grams of alcohol a day from wine or a combination of wine and beer was not associated with any reduction in death risks. One small, 4-ounce glass of wine contains 10.5 grams of alcohol and a 12-ounce bottle of beer has about 11 to 14 grams of alcohol.
Wine Calms High Blood Pressure
In the study, which appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed more than 36,000 healthy middle-aged men who were not taking drugs for heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
The men's health and drinking status were recorded in an exam conducted between 1978 and 1985 and deaths among the group were tracked for 13-21 years.
Overall, 4,203 deaths were recorded during the study period. Researchers found that at each blood pressure level, men who drank less than 60 grams of alcohol a day from wine were less likely to have died from any cause than those who didn't drink, even among those with high blood pressure.
Specifically, men with an average systolic blood pressure of:
- 158 mm Hg had a 23% lower risk
- 139 mm Hg had a 27% lower risk
- 116 mm Hg had a 37% lower risk
"These findings may have important implications for hypertensive middle-aged and elderly patients who are already moderate wine drinkers," write researcher Serge Renaud of the Hospital Emile Roux in Limeil-Brévannes, France, and colleagues. "This habit may lower the patient's risk of death especially that from all causes, which has not improved even with the recent [blood pressure-lowering] drugs."
The study was supported by the French Ministry of Agriculture and the European Institute for Wine and Health.