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Alcohol Consumption & the Heart: New Study Outlines Effect

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It's widely accepted that drinking alcohol in moderation can help protect your heart, lowering your risk of a heart attack. But how much and how often, and are some types of alcohol better than others?

Well now researchers from Harvard have come up with some answers. They tracked over 38,000 men-- health care professionals-- for 12 years.

The volunteers were all were free of heart disease at the start of the study, and completed questionnaires every four years about their drinking habits and overall health.

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study suggests the pattern or frequency of drinking seems to matter most.

Compared to men who drank little or no alcohol, those who drank frequently-- at least one drink three to four times a week-- cut their risk of heart disease.

This was true regardless of the type of beverage.. beer, liquor, red wine or white wine, and whether or not it was consumed with meals.

Their findings held true even after considering other factors known to affect heart disease risk including diet and exercise, body mass index, family history, high blood pressure or aspirin use.

Even so, experts say it's not a reason to start drinking. Alcohol can affect the body in a variety of ways, and some people are more susceptible to the harmful effects. Talk to your doctor to see what's best for you.

Deciding whether or not to drink is a complex issue.

Nearly 14 million people in the U.S. abuse or are addicted to alcohol. More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol related liver disease. And drunk driving claims almost 17,000 lives and injures more than half a million people every year.

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