A Little Taste for the Heart

I read an article posted on the HealthCentral Network, about alcohol, and cardiovascular health.

Since I also wonder how much alcohol is the right amount for my heart, cardiovascular system, and cholesterol, but is also wrong for my liver and memory, I was interested in what he had to say.

He started with the ever popular “There is no easy answer.” But then went on to say that if you don’t drink now, and really don’t want to, there is no reason to start. If you have problems with alcohol, don’t expose yourself to it in the name of being good for your heart.

Also, if you have a strong family history of alcoholism, using alcohol to lower cardiovascular risk factors is probably not your best idea.

Here are some questions to ask, and a way to calculate your limits:

What, and how much are you drinking? When asked do you reply: “one drink a night” (mixed in a pitcher), or “some wine and a cocktail” (a bottle of wine and an endless cocktail). If you really don’t know the answer, you may have another problem other than a bad memory.

How much do you drink now, and how does it affect you? If a single glass of wine makes you tipsy, or impairs your abilities, you have reached your limit.

How big are you? Alcohol does most of its damage when the level in the blood is high. The larger you are, the more it takes to reach a high level; therefore the smaller you are, the less it takes.

Does your family have a history of alcohol intolerance? People are genetically different from one another and tolerate medications, and/or alcohol at different rates. Some people say they can drink a lot without a problem, but one Benadryl tablet wipes them out. If someone in your family has a low limit, expect you will have one too. Size and gender may be less important when it come to handling alcohol than genetic history.

Are you mixing types of alcohol? There are no good scientific studies on this, but an old French proverb about “mixing grain and grape”, or another Old Wives Tale we used to repeat as I was growing up beer and whiskey mighty risky. have yet to be discounted.

Here are some interesting alcohol facts:

A standard “shot” of whiskey is 45 cc, and if it is 86 proof (43% alcohol by volume), contains 19.35 cc of alcohol by volume: 100 calories.

As far as your diet goes, cocktails add calories to the whiskey, a minimum of about 75 calories for standard drinks, and if you add cream like in a White Russian, or an umbrella drink, you might just as well eat an ice cream. You get the extra calcium and can still drive.

A glass of wine is usually 6 oz (180cc), if it is 11% (most wines are 11-12%) it contains 19.8 cc of alcohol by volume, calories: 170 (120-270), sweet dessert wines have more calories).

Wine coolers: add the calories of the fruits and added sugar.
A can of beer is usually 12 oz (360cc), if it is 5% (most beer is 4-6%), it contains 18 cc of alcohol by volume, calories: 95 to 200 (darker beers have more calories).

A word to the wise is sufficient here. All studies linking alcohol to a reduction of cardiovascular problems are based on populations of adults of a certain age. There is no evidence of a health benefit to start drinking at an early age, or for drinking for long term. As with anything else, balance and moderation are good guidelines to follow.

Two apples a day doesn’t keep the doctor away more than one, five apples a day would not improve your health, but would give you extra bulk to carry around. Alcohol is the same way.

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