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McLaren Port Huron Women's Health News for Winter 2011



McLaren Port Huron, Port Huron, Michigan, Women's Health News for Winter 2011

Moderate Drinking May Offer Benefits to Women

Middle-aged women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may end up in better physical and mental health in old age than women who don't drink.

Photo of smiling couple holding drinks

In a recent study, researchers found evidence that moderate drinking can benefit health, particularly in terms of heart disease, stroke, and brain function. It's not clear exactly how alcohol achieves this, but it may have something to do with how alcohol reduces inflammation in the body.

Qi Sun, M.D., at Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues came to this conclusion after examining the medical records of 13,894 nurses who were middle-aged in the 1980s (the median age was 58) and lived to be at least 70. The women's health was updated through the decades, and the study excluded heavy drinkers or those with possible alcohol problems.

Making the comparison

The researchers then focused on 11 percent of those women who had aged successfully and compared them with the others in an attempt to determine whether those who drank in midlife -- they tended to drink wine -- did any better health-wise.

After adjusting their statistics for various factors, such as smoking and chronic disease, researchers found that the healthiest women in old age were more likely to have been drinkers in midlife. Dr. Sun estimated that the moderate drinkers were about 20 percent more likely to be healthy later in life.

And routinely drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol appeared to have more benefit than drinking only occasionally.

Other factors may affect outcome

Regardless of the possible benefits, Dr. Sun points out that this doesn't mean that moderate drinking is better than not drinking, since other factors could account for the difference. Nor does the research examine the long-term cost of drinking wine instead of milk with dinner, for instance.

And, the results of the study should not be an excuse for middle-aged women to start drinking if they don't already. Alcohol can have adverse affects on chronic conditions and may cause adverse reaction when combined with medications.

Always talk with your health care provide to find out more information.

Online Resources

(McLaren Port Huron is not responsible for the content of the following Internet sites.)

American Heart Association - Alcoholic Beverages and Cardiovascular Disease

Harvard School of Public Health - The Bottom Line

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - What's a Standard Drink?

Winter 2011

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The Benefits and Risks of Alcohol

Recent studies may reduce your risk for certain medical conditions, but it can also increase your risk for other illnesses, such as breast cancer. Here are some facts about alcohol that you might want to consider before you take your next drink:

  • Alcohol can pack on the pounds. Each gram of alcohol contains about seven calories. That translates to 100 to 150 calories in a typical glass of wine or beer. Add two drinks - or 300 calories - to your total calories every day, five days per week, and that could add up to nearly two pounds every month.

  • Alcohol may increase mental decline. Although some evidence shows that alcohol may protect the blood vessels in the brain of a healthy person, additional evidence shows that alcohol increases the rate of cognitive decline in older people who already show signs of dementia.

  • Alcohol can make chronic conditions worse. Health conditions, such as high blood pressure, liver disease, ulcers, osteoporosis, acid reflux disease, and sleep disorders, can be made worse by alcohol.

  • Alcohol can interfere with medications. Many medications interact with alcohol, increasing the risk of illness, injury, and even death. If you take a prescription for sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or painkillers, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about whether it's safe for you to use alcohol.

Always talk with your health care provide to find out more information.

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