By Dr Michael MacDonald
Is red wine actually good for the heart? The short answer is yes … and no. It depends very much on your personal and familial health history, among other matters. This article will give you a good idea of the risks and rewards of red wine on heart health, but before going out to buy a bottle for health reasons, consult a medical professional. You should not start drinking red wine for health benefits without discussing it with your doctor, but if you already enjoy an occasional glass with your dinner, you may be at reduced risk for some heart-related health issues.
The science isn’t entirely in on what benefits red wine technically causes. Still, moderate consumption (5oz per day) has long been linked to reduced risks of many heart-related issues, such as coronary artery disease and heart attack. Additionally, red wine has also been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and protecting blood vessel lining in the heart. In turn, these factors reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. But what exactly is it about red wine that causes these benefits?
Antioxidants called polyphenols are found in significant concentrations in red wine. These antioxidants are the factors that help to protect blood vessel lining. There is one polyphenol called resveratrol that has gained particular attention as a source of benefits. While not all experts agree, it is thought that polyphenol helps to reduce the risk of blood clots, inflammation, and heart attack. However, more research on this subject is needed before scientists can reach any definitive conclusions.
While there may be some beneficial side effects from red wine consumption, the same antioxidants can be found in many other foods. Many fruits contain polyphenols, such as grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. You can also get the same effects from a handful of walnuts. And best of all for those with a sweet tooth, dark chocolates are rich in antioxidants, so enjoying a nice piece is no reason to feel bad. Just be sure you limit the daily chocolate intake to restrict the excess calories.
While there may be some benefits to heart health by drinking red wine, there are definitely many risks. Even moderate consumption can be dangerous, especially in those with a family history of alcoholism and addiction. Alcoholism is a serious disease that often needs treatment from medical professionals and can lead to death if left untreated. Additionally, alcohol consumption can damage internal organs such as the liver, pancreas, and kidneys, as well as many other health concerns. It can cause some types of cancers, lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, and obesity.
In addition to harming your own body, alcohol consumption can also cause significant harm to others. Because alcohol reduces inhibitions and reaction time, those who overindulge are prone to accidents, which can be deadly in many circumstances, especially if you get behind the wheel. A drunk person is also more likely to display violence against others.
To add to the long list of risks, alcohol is also a depressant. It is not uncommon for a person who abuses alcohol to become depressed and suicidal. If a person is already prone to depression or other severe mental health disorders, they should avoid alcohol entirely. Others who should avoid alcohol all together are those who are pregnant, have diseases related to the liver, pancreas, or heart, or are on certain medications. Be sure to check the instruction label on any prescription for alcohol warnings and ask your pharmacist if you have any alcohol interaction concerns.
For healthy adults of legal drinking age, the recommended serving of red wine is up to one glass per day for women and up to two glasses for men. If you are over sixty-five, one drink per day is recommended regardless of gender. The recommended limit is different for men and women simply because men generally have more body mass. If you are a small man or a large woman, you may adjust this recommendation accordingly after speaking with your doctor to confirm it is safe to do so.
All in all, while there may be some heart health benefits to consuming a moderate amount of red wine, you should not start drinking it merely for this reason. There are numerous risks to alcohol consumption, so please seek out the opinion of your doctor if you are curious about whether or not red wine can reduce your risk of heart-related conditions and diseases. There are several other options that provide the same antioxidants found in red win without the many dangers that come with alcohol.