The Common Drink That Reduces Stress And Heart Attack Risk

People who drank this were at a 20 percent lower risk of having a heart attack.

People who drank this were at a 20 percent lower risk of having a heart attack.

A moderate intake of alcohol helps to protect the heart by reducing stress signals to the brain, a study finds.

Moderate alcohol intake is between 1 and 14 drinks per week.

For the study, the brains of 752 people were scanned, focusing on the amygdala, a structure associated with stress and fear.

People who drank alcohol moderately were at a 20 percent lower risk of having a heart attack (or ‘major event’ as doctors like to call it now).

They were also likely to have lower activity in the amygdala.

Dr Kenechukwu Mezue, the study’s first author, explained:

“We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately, while people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity.

The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

Another study by the same research team found that exercise has a similar beneficial and protective effect on the heart.

The more exercise people did, the lower was their stress-associated brain activity.

Dr Mezue said:

“The current study suggests that moderate alcohol intake beneficially impacts the brain-heart connection.

However, alcohol has several important side effects, including an increased risk of cancer, liver damage and dependence, so other interventions with better side effect profiles that beneficially impact brain-heart pathways are needed.”

Alcohol causes brain damage

Although an interesting study, if you are trying to choose between moderate drinking and exercise to protect your heart and health, then there is no contest: exercise wins.

Here are some of the things that alcohol does to the brain:

The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session (Mezue et al., 2021).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.