Does alcohol harm the heart?

Q. You often say that an alcoholic drink per day improves heart health. But I heard a recent study found that any amount of alcohol is harmful to the heart and health. What’s the truth?

A. Every one of us wants advice that’s simple and “true.” But few important things are simple, and what we think is “true” can change with more information. Also, we’re all different in some ways, and what’s healthy for you may not be healthy for me.

My colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health put it succinctly: “Alcohol is both a tonic and a poison.” Whether alcohol is a tonic or a poison for you depends on your current state of health (including diseases that run in your family), your habits (such as diet, exercise, smoking), and how much alcohol you drink.

As for that recent study that concluded there was no amount of alcohol per day that was healthy [published online March 25, 2022, by JAMA Network Open], I think the study was flawed, and actually showed health benefits from three to six drinks per week.

In contrast to that single study, more than 100 large studies have found that people who have one drink per day (moderate drinking) have lower risks of cardiovascular disease. By the way, we define “one drink” as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. And while it’s healthy for most people to have one drink on each day of the week, seven drinks all on Saturday night are not healthy.

Many studies also find that people who have more than three drinks per day are at much greater risk for damage to the heart, liver, and brain, and of dying in an automobile accident or from violence.

Any amount of alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Hearing that, a woman might be inclined to say: “Well, then, I’m going to avoid alcohol.” But it’s not that simple. For example, a 60-year-old woman is 10 times more likely to die from heart disease than from breast cancer. While a drink a day may slightly increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, it reduces a woman’s much greater risk of heart disease.

It’s all about achieving a healthy balance of risks… for you! If breast cancer is common in your family, it may well be best to avoid having a drink a day. But if heart disease runs in your family, a drink a day may make sense for you.

Finally, if you are physically active, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, are not overweight, and have no family history of heart disease, there’s a little added benefit from drinking alcohol. And if you don’t usually drink, no need to start: there are better ways to achieve heart health.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? (Genesis 18:24) And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)

And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” (Genesis 32:20)
to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. (Genesis 50:17)

“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” (Exodus 10:17)
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. (Exodus 23:21)

Moses Intercedes for Israel The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30) So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. (Exodus 32:31) But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!” (Exodus 32:32)

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)

And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20) Then he must burn all the goat’s fat on the altar, just as he does with the peace offering. Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the Lord, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)

Then he must remove all the goat’s fat, just as he does with the fat of the peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar, and it will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31) Then he must remove all the sheep’s fat, just as he does with the fat of a sheep presented as a peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar on top of the special gifts presented to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people from their sin, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)

The priest will then prepare the second bird as a burnt offering, following all the procedures that have been prescribed. Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord, and you will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10) Through this process, the priest will purify those who are guilty of any of these sins, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the flour will belong to the priest, just as with the grain offering.” (Leviticus 5:13)

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