MELBOURNE, Australia — Drinking alcohol and maintaining good health can be a tough balancing act for many. Although some studies have found that drinking in moderation can be good for your health, others have found that any amount of alcohol can cause harm. Now, a new report finds, at least for older adults, the occasional drink may help people live longer by lowering the risk of developing heart disease.

Researchers from Monash University say moderate alcohol consumption improved the chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease among more than 18,000 seniors from the United States and Australia. Moreover, moderate drinkers had a lower risk of heart problems than healthy individuals choosing not to drink at all.

What’s the right number of drinks for a healthy heart?

Health experts generally agree that heavy drinking and binge drinking are major risk factors for disease and early death from all causes. However, the link between smaller amounts of alcohol and health has been unclear. At the same time, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer worldwide.

With the world’s population growing older due to longer lifespans, researchers looked at how older adults may be able to maintain their quality of life as they reach their 70s and beyond. All of the participants were generally healthy individuals with no history of heart problems, dementia, or disability. The over 18,000 seniors had an average age of 74 years-old.

Through self-assessments of their own drinking habits, researchers found that 18.6 percent did not drink alcohol at all during a normal week. As for those who do drink alcohol, 37.3 percent drank 1-50 grams (up to three drinks) per week, 19.7 percent drank 51–100 grams (3.5 to seven drinks), and 15.6 percent consumed 101–150 grams (seven to 10 drinks) each week.

Another 8.9 percent of the participants report drinking over 150 grams (or more than 10 drinks) each week. Study authors followed this group for nearly five years, examining how these drinking habits related to each person’s risk for CVD events, such as death from coronary heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks, stroke, and hospitalization for heart failure.

4 drinks lead to a longer life?

Results reveal older adults with higher levels of weekly drinking actually fared better than those drinking little to no alcohol. The team found participants in the 51–100, 101–150, and over 150-gram groups experienced fewer CVD events than the no alcohol group.

Additionally, researchers discovered that seniors drinking between 51 and 100 grams each week (3.5 to seven drinks) had a lower risk of death from all causes in comparison other participants.

Lead author Dr. Johannes Neumann notes that people should take these findings with a grain of salt. Since all of the seniors were generally healthy and active at the beginning of the study, the results may vary among other older adults in the worldwide population.

Dr. Neumann also notes that heavy drinking still increases the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and liver disease.

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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