Alcohol Consumption’s Surprising Heart-Protective Effect Against Stress:
I don’t always drink Dos Equis, but when I do, it saves my life.
One recent narrative is how interconnected our body’s systems are in the big picture.
For example, we’re learning more & more about the Gut-Brain Axis and how your stomach & GI tract act like a second brain.
Not to mention that most of the feel-good chemicals for it are made in your gut.
And despite a list of recent cautions by regulatory groups,
A group of Mass General researchers is finding out that there is not just a cardio-to-brain health-axis, but it also seems to run the other way, too…
The Short Answer:
- Science is finding more detailed connections between systems of our bodies.
- The Gut-Brain Axis is one.
- The Heart-Brain Axis is another.
- Anything that’s healthy for your heart is healthy for your brain.
- Cardio can defend against Alzheimer’s & Dementia, for example.
- Stress is a killer.
- One of the things that can help you de-stress is alcohol in moderation.
- Non-drinkers had higher stress than moderate drinkers.
- Heavy drinkers had the highest stress of all.
- These results were confirmed by activity-scans of the brain’s stress-center.
- Hyperactivity in the Amygdala is linked to heart-attack, stroke & early mortality.
- Moderate drinkers had a 20% reduced risk of these types of problems.
- Stress causes massive inflammation and releases plaques and at-least 4 inflammatory biochemicals into your bloodstream.
- Dr. Ken’s team is not recommending alcohol intake.
- Getting cardiovascular exercise is still better.
- Regular cardio exercise showed a similar benefit on cardiovascular problems as moderate alcohol consumption.
UPDATE: If you’d rather check this out as a YouTube video, here you go!:
Read on to find out the details…
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So we now know that the brain is constantly receiving signals from our gut on just how healthy we are.
And especially about the good or bad microbes we have, and if we’re getting enough serotonin.
But another axis type that’s been expounded on recently is the cardio/brain one.
The saying goes that what is healthy for the heart is healthy for the brain.
Because if your circulation is great, then the organ at the top of you is probably getting everything it needs.
-Especially since the things that make your circulatory system healthy, -like cardiovascular exercise,
Are also healthy for your brain in more ways than one, like making you grow new brain cells and defending against Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
But the most interesting part of this recent work by Ken Mezue’s team is that the equation can run the other way round, too!
And let’s go ahead and head-off all the doubters right away when they start calling BS on “mind over matter“.
Because in the case of at-least your own “matter”, it does work.
Just not in the way that EU scientists might like.
(But if you had to witness the olympic-deadlift-level lengths that people like the Brits and the Poles will go to in order to drink as much as possible, you might be scared too.)
So we know that Stress is a killer.
Well, what is one of the things that helps you de-stress?
No, not that. –Alcohol!
So in some work that is redolent of unlikely alcohol-champion, Stanton Peele,
The Mass General team did a meta-analysis of over 53,000 survey participants with an average age of 57.
And found that moderate alcohol consumption of up to 1 drink/day for women and 2/day for men,
Was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
And pursuing the thread of Stress, they found that
1) Stress levels were higher in those who didn’t drink at all.
2) The highest levels of stress were found in the Heavy drinkers.
They even coaxed more than 750 people into fancy PET brain-scanners and looked at activity around the brain’s fear-center compared with the one most concerned with executive-function,
(the Amygdala and the Pre-Frontal Cortex)
And the scans confirmed the results in an even more explicit & concrete way.
But wait, it gets better.
Because previous work by the exact same group of researchers confirmed what several other studies have said previously.
Elevated stress with high-levels of Amygdala activity is strongly associated with some very bad health outcomes,
Like heart-attack, stroke, & early-mortality.
And what they found recently is the Moderate drinkers were able to reduce the activity in that region of the brain,
To end up with a 20% lower risk of a major cardiovascular event compared with even the non-drinkers!
Stanton Peele might even claim that 20% is a low estimate and it should probably be considered a higher level of protection.
He might even go on to point out regular moderate intake is also associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease, dementia, cognitive-decline, and stroke.
So how does stress kill?
So far, many studies show it causes massive systemic inflammation.
This also raises levels of nasty stuff like:
2) Amyloid-A (cousin to Alzheimer’s Amy-B)
3) And 2 other biochems related to hardening of the arteries
Still other studies show that when stress-chemicals get dumped into your bloodstream,
Bacteria that would stabilize buildup inside your blood vessels mysteriously reverse their equation.
They release tons of enzymes that destabilize biofilms inside them,
Releasing much of the plaques they had stabilized, dumping them en-masse right into your bloodstream all over again.
Those are probably not the only ways these things happen, but 2 of the biggest study results so far.
And now the caveats.
We all should aspire to certain attainable versions of our ideals.
Even the CDC has been begging all of us to just get -some- kind of cardiovascular exercise at all.
Walk an extra block, take one flight of stairs, put 1 of the Twinkies down, please.
The Mezue team doctors are no different here.
Due to all the potential problems with alcohol-use that include overdoing it and creating things like a bodyfat-generated inflammation-spiral, addiction, obesity, liver-damage, all the way up to The Big C,
They say they are not explicitly-advocating drinking alcohol.
The real solution is to get right out, hop on the Peloton, the treadmill, jump rope, or go for a walk.
-Because the Moderate-drinkers’ results were also similar to those created by regular cardiovascular exercise.
(the current ideal standard is about 30 minutes/day)
But just so you know, there are many times at which all of us will have to pick our poison and take our chance.
If cardiovascular exercise really is an impossibility at the time of big stress,
Maybe 1-2 drinks depending on who you are, could be a hell of a lot better than the cardio-cascade that big stress would have caused anyway? -Just please don’t make it a habit and become alcohol’s slave.
More Coverage: CDC – Exercise Basics
YouTube Video Link: If you’d prefer this content as a video, it’s here.