Beer may 'stretch' arteries

New study indicates a beer a day can be good for the heart

May 18, 2003 - People who drink one drink a day — wine, beer or hard liquor — show significantly better elasticity of their body's arteries, an important measure of cardiovascular health, according to a new study.


"We thought only red wine helps, but we found if people drink one beer or one unit of hard liquor a day, they also have improved arterial elasticity, better than nondrinkers," said Dr. Reuven Zimlichman of Wolfson Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel.

When arteries lose elasticity, they fail to relax as the heart pumps blood. This causes a rise in the systolic blood pressure, something Zimlichman calls a "terrible predictor" of future strokes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

The researchers also found that moderate drinkers had pulse rates that were significantly lower than those of nondrinkers. "There's been lots of study of pulse rates and the risk of disease," Zimlichman said. He noted that higher pulse rates are associated with an increased risk of disease and death.

In comparing wine drinkers with drinkers who favor other alcoholic beverages, the researchers observed that beer and hard liquor drinkers had slightly higher blood pressure than wine drinkers. But all drinkers had blood pressure within normal ranges, Zimlichman said.

The report comes with the usual disclaimers about the risks of drinking. Asked if this study means nondrinkers should start drinking, Zimlichman answered that heavy drinking itself can cause high blood pressure. "Whenever you recommend drinking, you have to consider the possibility that somebody will like it too much and over-drink and cause damage to his health," he said. "But if someone has a high risk of cardiovascular disease, I recommend to my patients that they drink one glass of red wine a day."

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