Male heart bypass surgery patients who drink moderately have a 25% lower risk of further cardiovascular surgery, strokes, heart attacks and dying prematurely from a cardiovascular event compared to similar patients who never drink, researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy, explained at the American Heart’s Association Scientific Sessions 2010, Chicago. They added that patients with left ventricular dysfunction who consumed at least six alcoholic drinks per day had double the risk of having a cardiovascular death compared to teetotalers.

Moderate drinking is defined as up to three alcoholic drinks per day (or 5 to 30 grams of alcohol per day), moderate to heavy drinking means at least six per day (over 60 grams of alcohol per day). These figures refer just to males.

(Coronary) bypass surgery is aimed at improving the blood supply to the heart by creating a new route for the blood flow, because the existing one has become obstructed. The surgeon removes a healthy blood vessel from, for example, the patient’s leg, and grafts it onto the heart to bypass the blocked artery – hence the name of the procedure.

Umberto Benedetto, M.D., Ph.D., said:

    “The benefit of light amounts of alcohol consumption has been documented in healthy individuals, but our analysis showed a benefit from light alcohol intake in post-coronary bypass patients. However, our analysis indicated that alcohol consumption is not advisable in patients with left ventricular dysfunction and heart failure. No adverse correlation was found between moderate alcohol consumption and any medication.

Benedetto and team assessed the outcomes of 1,021 males who had undergone heart bypass, they used a questionnaire to gather data on their drinking habits. They then checked how many patients had further bypass surgeries, heart attacks, strokes and cardiac death over a three-and-a-half year period after their initial operation.

They found that individuals who consumed approximately two drinks per day had 25% fewer cardiovascular events compared to those who never drank alcoholic beverages.

Risk of cardiovascular death was found to be considerably higher for those with left ventricular problems and moderate to heavy drinking, compared to abstainers with the same condition, the researchers added.

Benedetto explained that in order to confirm the findings, the study needs to continue for longer, with more bypass patients and controls.

The American Heart Association cautions that alcohol can raise blood pressure, as well as placing people at risk of other negative health consequences. The Association in no way recommends the use of alcohol to prevent heart disease. Current male drinkers are advised to keep within two drinks a day maximum, while female drinkers should not exceed one per day.

Source: American Heart’s Association Scientific Sessions 2010

Written by: Christian Nordqvist