Two women wearing nun outfits drink beer
Two women wearing nun outfits drink beer while watching the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier curling championships in Kamloops, British Columbia. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

Having a drink every day could lower a middle-aged person's risk of heart failure, a new study suggests. Men in their 40s, 50s and 60s who drink as much as seven glasses of wine, beer or spirits every week see their risk of heart failure drop by 20 per cent. For women the drop in risk was roughly 16 per cent.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, suggests that moderate consumption of alcohol is actually good for the system. The researchers pointed out the study does not prove a cause and effect relationship, and therefore, shouldn't be taken as an excuse to drink a lot. While no level of alcohol intake was found to be associated with risk of heart failure, the researchers said that heavy drinking does cause death.

Some scientists maintain that alcohol cannot be recommended as therapy to protect the heart against failure but that if it is a part of one's life, taking it in moderation is essential for protecting the heart.

Heart failure occurs when the cardiac muscle is unable to sufficiently pump blood. About 23 million people suffer heart failure. It is caused by high blood pressure, heart disease, drug use and chemotherapy.

The study defined one drink as equal to 14 grammes of alcohol, the equivalent of a small glass of wine, about a pint of beer, and somewhat less than a shot of a spirit like vodka or whiskey. It tracked drinking patterns and heart failure rates for 14,600 men and women who were between the ages of 45 and 64 when they joined the study in the late 1980s. Of these, 42 percent were teetolers, 19 percent were former drinkers, 25 pe cent drank up to seven drinks a week and eight percent reported drinking 14 drinks a week, with the remaining three percent drinking 14 to 21 drinks a week.

The researchers followed the subjects for the next 25 years, periodically asking them about the type and quantity of alcohol they consumed . About2,500 people in the group, 1,300 men and 1,200 women, developed heart failure.

Compared with heavy drinkers and teetotalers, the lowest risk of heart failure was seen among moderate drinkers who had up to seven drinks a week. The highest risk was for those who used to consume alcohol but had stopped drinking during the study. However, the scientists said that these people may have stopped drinking as a result of poorer health rather than the other way round.

Heavy drinkers, those who consumed 14 or more drinks per week, did not appear to face any more of a risk of heart failure than those who never drank at all. This result, the researchers said, might be skewed by the relatively small number of heavy drinking subjects in the study.

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