Each night with dinner, Jennifer Blake enjoys a glass of chilled pinot noir to stave off the stresses of her busy life. A paralegal for a major law firm and the mother of two children under the age of 8, Blake is often battling an overburdened schedule.
"It relaxes me," Blake said. "I'm better able to deal with the stresses of evening routines; the kids' homework, laundry and bedtime."
But recently Blake's wine consumption has become more than a relaxer. She was told by her doctor that drinking wine in moderation is believed to be beneficial to her health, particularly her heart.
"Even more reason to keep that part of my evening routine," Blake said, laughing.
More attention is being directed to the topic of moderate alcohol consumption and its positive benefits on healthier lifestyles. Studies prove alcohol in general can add healthy benefits, if used in moderation.
Consider information provided by the Yale New Haven Hospital that found moderate intake of alcohol improves cardiovascular health. And research conducted at Harvard included moderate alcohol consumption as one of eight proven ways to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Dr. Michael S. Fenster, a board-certified interventional cardiologist in private practice, did extensive research on the benefits of alcohol, particularly wine, in healthier cooking. In his book "Eating Well Living Better," Fenster dove into the topic of wine in food preparation.
"Moderate alcohol consumption has been studied and seems to convey clear cardiovascular benefits such as few heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease and hypertension and perhaps some in terms of reduction in stroke and increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's-related dementia," Fenster wrote. "There also seems to be some potential benefit against developing gall stones, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, certain forms of cancer and Type 2 Diabetes.
"This may be something you already know if you listened to Grandma as she lived to a healthy and ripe old age enjoying a glass or two each day," Fenster goes on. "Here I focus on wine as both a complement and component of a meal."
According to the Mayo Clinic, "red wine seems to have even more heart-healthy benefits than other types of alcohol."
This is largely due to the antioxidants in red wine, called polyphenols, which protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart.
Resveratrol, a polyphenol, that is present in the skin of red grapes. Resveratrol has been linked to reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which have been proven to lead to heart disease.
Wine also is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are proven to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in the following three ways:
Reducing production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Boosting high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Reducing blood clotting.
Resveratrol also may inhibit tumor development in some cancers and may be helpful in the treatment of some neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"One important fact is that moderate wine consumption is part of the original Mediterranean diet approach," said Fenster.
To get the most benefit, it is suggested that wine drinkers look for the types with the highest concentrations of flavonoids. They might include Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir. Merlots and Red Zinfandels have fewer flavonoids and white wines have significantly smaller amounts than red varieties.
But how much wine should you drink for your health to benefit?
"Moderate wine consumption is 1-3 glasses per day," Fenster said. Four ounces is equivalent to one serving. "Multiple studies have shown moderate wine drinkers are healthy and live longer than people who abstain or overconsume."
Yale New Haven Hospital also points out that the consumption of wine or any other alcoholic beverage should be limited to those who are healthy and free from medical or social conditions that would be worsened by alcohol use.
It is important to note that the American Heart Association or the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute doesn't recommend anyone begin drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Alcohol has addictive properties. It also can worsen other health issues.
"Drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and other problems. In addition, drinking too much alcohol regularly can cause cardiomyopathy, weakened heart muscle, causing symptoms of heart failure in some people," Fenster wrote.
Those with heart failure or a weak heart and pregnant women should avoid alcohol completely.
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at email@example.com