Women who drank anywhere from a few alcoholic drinks a month to more than three a week in the year leading up to a heart attack ended up living longer than women who never drank alcohol, according to a US study.
The findings, which focused on more than 1,000 women and were published in the American Journal of Cardiology, add to mounting evidence that alcohol, regardless of the type of drink, can be good for the heart.
"One thing that was interesting was that we didn't see differences among different beverage types," said Joshua Rosenbloom, a student at Harvard Medical School who led the study.
"The most recent evidence suggests that it's the alcohol itself that's beneficial."
There was a similarly reduced risk of dying within the follow up period whether the women drank wine, beer or hard liquor, Rosenbloom and his colleagues found.
"One drink a day is a really good target, assuming that a person can be disciplined about that," said James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at St. Luke's Health System in Kansas City, Missouri, who was not involved in the study.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,200 women hospitalized for a heart attack. They asked questions about how many alcoholic drinks the women usually consumed, along with other health and lifestyle questions.
After at least 10 years of follow up, the team found that 44 out of every 100 women who had abstained from alcohol had died, while 25 out of every 100 light drinkers and 18 out of every 100 heavy drinkers had died.
This translated to about a 35 per cent lower chance of dying during the follow up period for women who drank, compared to those who didn't.
In an earlier study including men and women, O'Keefe found that people who continued to drink moderately after having a heart attack had better health than those who abstained.
"You don't need to assume that people need to stop drinking once they develop heart disease," he said.
"The problem is that alcohol is a slippery slope, and while we know that a little bit is good for us, a lot of it is really bad."