Heart Healthy

Posted on: February 5, 2016
Tags: wine, alcohol, holidays, addiction, hearthealthy, wellness, health

It’s February and many of us have the same thing on our minds - the heart! Whether we are planning a night out with our love or buying a cute sweater for our cat, it is all about love. But one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to take care of yourself! (But I’m sure they would appreciate chocolate and flowers, too!) So, since Valentine’s is all about the heart, let’s talk about taking care of the most important heart, our own.

We have all heard that “Red wine is good for the heart!”, though it has changed over the years, from wine to beer, back to wine, or not at all, just depending on the latest research. Do you know where that myth came from? It is from what is called “the French paradox” and research that shows, despite their general diet containing foods that are high in fat content and relatively high cholesterol, the country has an overall low level of heart disease. The only possible reason, which created the myth we now know, is red wine.  Though there has been no direct connection shown between the two, and the only testing on red wine and heart disease has been on animals, many have come to believe this to be truth.

So, is there truth in this story or is this all a fabrication to create a great excuse to drink wine every day? The answer is somewhere in the middle.

As with any alcohol, moderation is always the key. The low-risk drinking guidelines set up by the World Health Organization state that women should drink no more than one standard drink per day and no more than two for men. According to the Mayo Clinic, red wine contains antioxidants known as polyphenol (specifically resveratrol, which receives the most attention) and could have more heart-healthy benefits than other alcohol types, but it’s still a possibility it is not any better than beer, white wine or liquor for heart health. “resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and prevents blood clots.” To date, most research has only been done on animals, and not people, so this is not definitive proof.

More important than knowing the possible benefits of drinking any type of alcohol is to know your risks. Factors that can put someone at greater risk for alcohol dependency include, but are not limited to: an increased tolerance (especially an early high tolerance), family history (children of alcoholics are 4X more likely to develop alcoholism), the presence of a mental health disorder, such as depression and anxiety, or high levels of stress (and the use of alcohol to “cope” with any of these issues). Gender can play a role in how alcohol affects a person, as women have a higher body fat to water ratio and feel the effects of alcohol faster. And the environment and culture surrounding a person plays a role in how they view alcohol use; a person who grew up in a home where alcohol was heavily used or abused may be more likely to see that as the norm.

The benefits of red wine can be found in other ways, and the best way to prevent heart disease is through a healthy diet and exercise. The antioxidants found in red wine can also be found in fruits and vegetables, along with other healthy foods – a great way to have all of the benefits and none of the risk! Happy Valentine’s Day and let’s celebrate a heart-healthy month!

By: Ashley Hampton