From previous articles, we know that alcohol and triglycerides don’t mix, but what about alcohol and cholesterol? Does drinking alcohol increase the level of cholesterol in your body like it does with your triglycerides? Surprisingly, no, it does not. In fact, alcohol may even help improve cholesterol levels. But before you rush off to buy that six pack of beer or bottle of wine, continue on to read the specifics of the effect of alcohol on cholesterol.
Not All Cholesterol Is The Same
There are two types of cholesterol. One is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol and is known as the LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that works to clog your arteries which then can lead to a stroke or heart disease.
The second type of cholesterol is the ‘good’ cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This good cholesterol works to protect you from heart attacks and strokes by clearing cholesterol deposits out of your arteries.
In order to reduce your risk of heart disease, both the HDL and the LDL need to be within healthy levels. For the HDL, the target level is 60 mg/hl or higher. For the LDL cholesterol, the optimal level is less than 100 mg/dl.
Red Wine and HDL Cholesterol
Studies have shown that drinking a daily glass or two of red wine can help to increase your HDL levels. This will help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Of all the alcohol, red wine seems to carry the greatest heart-healthy benefits due to its higher level of resveratrol, which is a natural plant chemical that has antioxidant properties. Resveratrol may work by protecting the artery walls from disease-causing damage.
While the main cardiovascular benefit of alcohol may be its ability to increase the HDL cholesterol, alcohol may also help to lower the risk of blood clots and decrease inflammation.
The Risks Of Drinking Alcohol
There are some risks with drinking alcohol, especially when drinking beyond what is called moderate drinking. If you drink more than moderately, you actually increase your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke. You can also end up with high blood pressure, obesity and high triglycerides.
Drinking excessively can bring on other heart related problems such as congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeats and a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy. In fact, the risks of alcohol consumption is so serious that the American Heart Association does not advise anyone to start drinking in order to lower cholesterol or improve heart health.
What Is Moderate Drinking?
Alcohol in moderation means about a drink a day for women and a daily drink or two for men. But, because the circumstances can differ so much from one person to the next, what may be moderate for one may be in excess for another. And there are some who should not drink at all. If you are a pregnant woman, you need to abstain. If you are taking certain meds or if you are dealing with high triglycerides, then drinking alcohol is not for you.
Always check with your doctor before deciding to drink to lower cholesterol. And consider healthier ways to reduce your LDL and increase your HDL cholesterol. These include losing weight, eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise.