Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSM) found that moderate drinkers enjoyed a higher chance of survival compared to those who refrained from drinking alcohol. Their calculations indicated that the typical moderate imbiber lived a year longer than an abstaining counterpart.
Study author David Brown mentioned how heart failure patients would often ask him if they should stop drinking wine. He and other researchers knew that too much drinking can aggravate heart problems, but one glass of wine each night is different.
"In contrast, we have data showing that healthy people who drink moderately seem to have some protection from heart failure over the long term, compared with people who don't drink at all," he noted. "But there was very little, if any, data to help us advise people who drink moderately and have just been diagnosed with heart failure." (Related: Compound in red wine can slow down aging.)
Brown and his colleagues said that heart failure patients could drink in moderation. For men, that amounted to two servings, while women could have one serving.
The WUSM researchers drew data from the earlier Cardiovascular Health Study. The group consisted of 5,888 adults, with 393 participants getting diagnosed with heart failure from 1993 to 2002.
Heart failure is a medical condition where the heart slowly loses its capability to pump enough blood to the body. Risk factors include diabetes, heart attack, kidney disease, and other chronic conditions.
The heart failure patients were separated into four categories. There were the participants who abstained from drinking, the patients who used to drink but quit the habit, people who consumed seven or fewer servings of alcohol every week, and finally the ones who drank at least eight servings per week.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers defined a single serving of alcohol as 12 ounces of beer, six ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of strong liquor. They also looked at the age, blood pressure, level of education, income, race, sex, smoking habits, and other important variables.
The results of the evaluation showed a link between moderate amounts of alcohol consumption (seven servings or less per week) and a longer survival time when compared with patients who completely abstained from drinking. The average time of survival was 383 days with the longest period being 748 days and the shortest one just 17 days.
Oddly enough, the greatest benefit appeared in patients who drank 10 drinks per week. However, very few patients were part of that category, so the finding was considered to be insufficient.
The researchers said that their study did not look at the cause and effect of the link between moderate drinking and a longer time of survival. They could not confirm if alcohol could protect the consumer from another heart failure.
They believed that there could be a different factor among moderate drinkers that is responsible for the increased survival time. With that in mind, they recommended consulting with a healthcare expert before taking up a glass.
"People who develop heart failure at an older age and never drank shouldn't start drinking," Brown concluded. "But our study suggests people who have had a daily drink or two before their diagnosis of heart failure can continue to do so without concern that it's causing harm."