Mounting evidence that moderate wine consumption is good for your heart is giving wine worshippers around the world something to toast. Very little of this research has been done exclusively on women, but a group of Swedish researchers decided to change that. They looked at a group of women who had heart disease to see who was healthierthe drinkers or the teetotalers.
What the researchers wanted to know: How does alcohol affect the cardiovascular health of women who have heart disease?
What they did: The researchers evaluated 102 Swedish women who had had a heart attack and been treated with an angioplasty or bypass. They surveyed the women about their drinking habits using a standard questionnaire, and measured the women's heart health by looking at their heart rate variability, or HRV. In healthy people, heart rates vary from beat to beat slightly, and that variation is called HRV. A normal HRV signals a healthier heart, while low HRVs, especially in people who have had a heart attack, could mean serious illness or death. The researchers hooked up a portable electric heart monitor to each of the women for a 24-hour period to measure their HRV.
What they found: Women who regularly drank wine had a higher HRV than those who drank beer, hard liquor, or no alcohol at all. Because a low HRV has been linked to serious heart illness, the researchers say their finding implies that women who consume moderate amounts of wine may have healthier hearts.
What it means to you: A number of studies have shown that moderate drinking, especially of wine, can be good for your heart. Many of those studies have been done using men but, as this study shows, wine can help women too. Just make sure you remember the part about moderation.
Caveats: The women self-reported the amount of alcohol they drank, which could lead them to underestimate their consumption. Still, that would likely make the effect the researchers found even stronger. In addition, these researchers looked at a very specific populationwomen who had heart diseaseso their results may not apply to the larger population (though studies on healthy people have suggested the same effects.)
Find out more: The American Heart Association has information specifically for women about heart disease, including lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk.
Read the article: Janszky, I. et al. "Wine Drinking Is Associated With Increased Heart Rate Variability in Women With Coronary Heart Disease." Heart. March 2005, Vol. 91, No. 3, pp. 314-318.
Abstract online: http://heart.bmjjournals.com