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GMA: Moderate Drinkers More Likely to Survive Heart Attacks

ByABC News via logo
April 17, 2001, 11:15 PM

B O S T O N, April 18 -- Drinking a cocktail or two every day can reduce your chances of heart failure and give you a better shot at surviving a heart attack, two new medical studies show.

Independent studies by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that consuming one to three alcoholic drinks per day resulted in a 47 percent decrease in risk of heart failure and 32 percent decrease in risk of death following a heart attack.

"I think it's really overwhelming evidence," said Dr. Eric Rimm, of the Harvard School of Public Health. "Men and women who drink moderately have a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of having a heart attack than those who abstain."

Past research has drawn a fine line between drinking and a healthy heart: Moderate drinkers are less likely to have heart attacks than teetotalers, but heavy drinking can lead to heart failure.

ABCNEWS' Dr. Tim Johnson says this latest research takes a direct look at how alcohol affects those with the potential for heart problems.

"These studies," he told Good Morning America, "in contrast to all the ones we heard before, look specifically at certain groups with heart disease or the potential to develop it,"

"Those who had heart attacks had a better survival rate," said Johnson. "Those elderly more likely to develop heart failure had a lower rate to developing heart failure."

Just a Couple

Johnson said it's important for people to remember, when looking at these types of studies, that only moderate drinking is safe, and too many drinks can have an adverse effect.

"The bottom line for me is, if people are safely socially drinking meaning one to two drinks a day they should not stop doing that if they develop heart problems," said Johnson.

However, Johnson said he is reluctant to reccommend that people start drinking to protect their life if they do not already drink because of potential problems (such as alcoholism) that may result. Doctors involved in the studies also do not recommend that abstainers start drinking, or that moderate drinkers stop.