Toast to Heart Health

Does moderate drinking reduce the risk for heart disease? Maybe, although for heart health benefits people who don't drink aren't advised to start. Moderate drinking (red or white wine, beer, or distilled spirits) may offer heart-health benefits for some people. Moderate drinking also may raise HDL levels and keep some LDL cholesterol from forming, according to recent research. Resveratrol, a phytonutrient in the skins and seeds of grapes, may function as an antioxidant, promoting heart health; it also may help keep blood platelets from sticking together. There's a fine line between how much alcohol is protective, though, and how much instead may promote heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Remember, alcohol also can raise triglyceride levels. Stick to moderation.

There's reason for caution. Research linking alcoholic beverages and heart health isn't conclusive. For example, we don't yet know who may benefit. Even if a minor benefit exists, moderate drinking is only one factor related to heart health. Other lifestyle factors may play a role-for example, wine drinkers may be more physically active, and they may drink wine with meals, which may help affect blood lipid (fat) levels. See "Red Wine: Heart-Healthy?" in chapter 8.

Excessive and binge drinking is risky. Besides potentially leading to high blood pressure, heart failure, and excess calories, too much drinking can lead to stroke, irregular heartbeat, and sudden cardiac death. For pregnant women, drinking is the leading known cause of birth defects. Even moderate drinking isn't advised.

Alcoholic beverages also supply extra calories, so if you're trying to control weight for heart health, control calories from alcoholic beverages, too.

If you take aspirin regularly for heart health, your doctor may advise you to limit alcoholic beverages. Until we know more, moderation is advised.

For more about alcoholic beverages in a healthful eating plan and a definition of moderate drinking, see "Alcoholic Beverages: In Moderation"in chapter 8.

Lifestyle Modifications to Manage High Blood Pressure

Modification

Recommendation

Approximate Systolic Blood Pressure Reduction (Range) *

Reduce weight Adopt DASH eating plan

Maintain normal body weight (BMI 18.5-24.9)

5 to 20 mm Hg per10 kg (22lb) of weight loss 8 to14 mm Hg

Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products with a reduced content of saturated and total fat.

Reduce dietary sodium intake to no more than 2 to 8 mm Hg 2400 milligrams of sodium** per day or 6 grams of sodium chloride.

Engage in regular aerobic physical activity such 4 to 9 mm Hg as brisk walking (at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week).

Limit consumption to no more than 2 drinks 2 to 4 mm Hg per day for men and to no more than 1 drink per day for women and light-weight persons. (One drink is 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1V2 ounces 80-proof distilled spirits.)

For overall cardiovascular risk reduction, stop smoking.

* Blood pressure reduction is greater for some people and depends on time and dose.

Source: The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2003.

** The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, advises less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily for most people.

Reduce dietary sodium

Engage in regular aerobic physical activity

Moderate alcohol consumption plaque formation, narrowing the passage for blood. As plaque builds up in the arteries and blood flow is restricted, blood pressure goes higher.

High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder; the higher the pressure, the greater the work and the greater the risk ofheart attack and stroke. High blood pressure can cause other problems: heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness. These problems result from damage that high blood pressure causes in the blood vessels of the heart, kidneys, and eyes.

Hypertension isn't emotional tension or stress, although stress may raise blood pressure temporarily. Even calm, relaxed people can have high blood pressure. For some, stress may be a factor, although the evidence isn't clear-cut. Regardless, for the overall quality of your life, learn to relieve stress.

Dieting Dilemma and Skinny Solutions

Dieting Dilemma and Skinny Solutions

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