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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK
Alcohol good after heart surgery
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Alcohol content can vary from product to product
Drinking a 'moderate' amount of alcohol can boost the recovery of patients who have had heart surgery, a German study has indicated.

Men who drank about six or more units a week after surgery to open blocked arteries were less likely to have renewed furring up of their arteries.

They were also half as likely to need repeated unclogging surgery as men who drank little or no alcohol.

The Heidelberg University research appears in the journal Heart.

'Moderate' consumption

Evidence suggests people who drink about one unit a day have a lower risk of heart attack, chronic heart trouble or sudden coronary death than heavier drinkers or those who do not drink at all.

One unit of alcohol is 10 ml by volume, or 8g by weight, of pure alcohol.

For example, one small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or one pub measure of spirits. However, the alcohol content of different products does vary.

Those who are consuming alcohol can continue, but there is no need for teetotallers to change their lifestyle
Professor Sir Charles George, medical director at the British Heart Foundation

Now Dr Christiane Tiefenbacher and colleagues have found alcohol, in moderation, can aid heart recovery following balloon angioplasty.

This is a less invasive way of opening up blocked arteries than bypass surgery, and involves the insertion of a small tube into the artery to keep it open.

Sometimes the artery can become blocked again, usually within the first four months of surgery if it is going to happen.

The Heidelberg team asked 225 men how much alcohol they drank every week during the first four months after their angioplasty.

Recovery boosted

They found 53 patients drank less than 50g - about 6 units - of alcohol a week.

A further 172 patients drank more than 50g and 21 drank between 350g and 700g - about 40-87 units - a week.

Drinking more than one or two units a day does not offer extra protection
A spokeswoman from Alcohol Concern

Those who drank little or no alcohol suffered more blocked arteries, poorer heart function and worse cholesterol levels than those who drank more than 50g a week.

Those who drank more than 50g a week were less likely to experience re-clogging or restenosis of their arteries and were less likely to need a repeat angioplasty.

Factors that appeared to make restenosis more likely were drinking less than 50g of alcohol a week or having diabetes.

The authors said this did not mean men should take up drinking if they have heart surgery.

But they said: "It further supports that moderate consumers of alcohol with an increased risk cardiovascular risk profile should not be advised to stop drinking."

Professor Sir Charles George, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The message is clear: alcohol does not increase the risks of restenosis after angioplasty and stent implantation, and may be beneficial.

"Those who are consuming alcohol can continue, but there is no need for teetotallers to change their lifestyle."

A spokeswoman from Alcohol Concern said it depended what you interpreted 'moderate' drinking to be.

"Drinking more than one or two units a day does not offer extra protection - on the contrary, this may raise blood pressure and cause extra health problems."


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