Is red wine actually good for your heart?

It’s a commonly held belief that a glass of red wine is good for your heart, but before you remove that cork and start an early Valentine’s Day celebration, you may want to keep reading.

Researchers have a variety of theories on why red wine might help prevent heart disease. Some studies with mice have suggested resveratrol, a substance that is contained in the skins of grapes, may prevent clotting and bad cholesterol. However, to get the same amount of resveratrol as the mice got, you would have to drink 60 liters of red wine every day.

Or maybe it’s the alcohol that helps? Alcohol in moderation, meaning one to two servings per day for men and one serving per day for women*, has been shown to slightly raise good cholesterol. Drinking too much alcohol, however, can raise the risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, obesity, some cancers or even heart failure. Depending on your individual health history, alcohol, even in moderation, may do more harm than good. The American Heart Association does not suggest drinking alcohol as a way to protect against heart disease as not enough research has been done on the subject.

So what can you do? If you want to imitate the benefits of resveratrol, drinking no sugar added red grape juice or eating grapes is a healthier way to go. Similarly, adding more exercise into your day can increase your good cholesterol better than a glass of wine can.

If you want to find out how to live a more heart-healthy life, the answer is simple. Get blood pressure and cholesterol screenings to assess your risk, and talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that can keep your heart strong.

*A serving of alcohol is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

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