For many wine lovers, relaxation can often be found in a glass of good wine. And stress reduction is a matter of health: High stress levels can lead to adverse cardiovascular effects such as high blood pressure. A new study has found promising results for moderate alcohol consumption and reducing stress-related brain signals responsible for heart disease.
Lead author Dr. Kenechukwu Mezue presented his findings on May 17 at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session & Expo (the study has not yet been published). In his research, Dr. Mezue and his cardiology team at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed self-reported data from the Mass General Brigham Biobank survey. The survey included 53,000 participants, of which 60 percent were women and the average age was 57.
The survey classified subjects' alcohol intake into four categories: no intake, low intake (less than one drink per week), moderate (one to 14 drinks per week) and high (more than 14 drinks per week). Hospital records were checked to see which subjects had experienced adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Of the 53,000 participants, nearly 8,000 had experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event during their lives.
Dr. Mezue and his team looked at areas of the brain with increased activity and measured stress-related brain activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear and stress by conducting PET (positron emission tomography) imaging scans on 752 survey participants.
"We measured activity in the amygdala region and controlled for it with measurements in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum," Dr. Mezue told Wine Spectator. "Previous studies from my mentor showed that increased levels of amygdala activation were associated with subsequent inflammation in the blood vessels and increased inflammation of arteries and, subsequently, increased number of cardiovascular events."