Middle-aged French men who drank two or more glasses of wine regularly after a recent heart attack were less likely to have a second heart attack or other cardiovascular complications compared to nondrinkers, according to a study released this week.
The study examined data from the Lyon Diet Heart Study, a randomized trial evaluating whether the Mediterranean diet may prevent further cardiovascular disease or death after a first or recent heart attack.
The impact of regular moderate alcohol consumption in patients with heart disease is limited and controversial, said Dr Michel de Lorgeril, the study's lead researcher, at the Cardiovascular Stress and Associated Pathology Laboratory of the Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble, France. The Lyon trial offered a unique opportunity to examine the issues in a very homogenous group of French middle-aged male survivors of a recent heart attack.
Researchers evaluated 353 men from the ages of 40 to 60 and classified the amount of alcohol they routinely drank. There were no significant differences in the severity of prior heart attack - the main indicator of new complications - in medications used, or in the diet among the drinking ranges.
During a mean follow-up of four years, 104 cardiovascular complications (including recurrent heart attack, stroke and heart failure) occurred. Thirty six of the complications occurred among men who abstained from alcohol, 34 among men who drank less than two glasses of wine a day, 18 among those who drank about two glasses a day and 16 among men who drank an average of four to five glasses of wine a day. Each glass of wine was about four ounces, said de Lorgeril.
Compared with nondrinkers, men who drank two or more glasses of wine each day reduced their risk for a recurrent heart attack by more than 50 per cent compared to nondrinkers.
The inverse relationship between wine drinking and the risk of complication seemed to be independent of the major predictors of cardiovascular disease, including smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as major lifestyle factors such as dietary habits, said de Lorgeril.
The researchers advised that it is too soon to make general recommendations about secondary prevention and caution is required before extending the results to other groups including women, people younger than 45, those older than 75, or when considering other types of alcohol and drinking patterns, they said. More studies are needed to better define the type of patients who would most benefit from moderate drinking after a heart attack.
The study was published in this week's rapid access issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.