Having a small glass of wine a day, or a single gin and tonic, cuts the risk of early death for people who have previously had a stroke or heart attack, a new study has found.
Several studies have found there may be health benefits of a moderate level of alcohol consumption but excessive intake can cause severe health problems, including addiction, cancer and high blood pressure.
Scientists from the University College London assessed data from more than 14,000 Britons enrolled in the UK Biobank Study who have a history of cardiovascular disease.
People who had suffered a stroke, heart attack or angina were followed for an average of nine years to see if they benefitted from a modest amount of alcohol every day.
It revealed that people who consumed eight grams of alcohol a day, equivalent to one unit of alcohol, were 27 per cent less likely to die of a heart attack than teetotalers.
One unit is the same as a single shot, or a small glass of weak wine.
Seven grams of alcohol a day, just shy of one unit, was found to be the sweet spot for lowering the chance of death from any cause, with all-cause mortality dropping by 21 per cent compared to people who do not drink at all.
Study corresponding author Chengyi Ding, a PhD student at UCL, said: "Our findings suggest people with cardiovascular disease may not need to stop drinking in order to prevent additional heart attacks, strokes or angina."
"But they may wish to consider lowering their weekly alcohol intake."
The study authors found people with a history of cardiovascular disease should drink no more than 105 grams of alcohol a week, equivalent to 13 units – six pints of medium strength beer or just over a bottle of wine.
Ms Ding added: "To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis of alcohol consumption and any subsequent cardiovascular events in patients with previous cardiovascular disease.
"In summary, our study shows an alcohol intake equivalent to 13 UK units a week is associated with lower risks of both mortality and subsequent cardiovascular events among cardiovascular disease patients."
The study also found those who downed over three pints or five glasses of wine a day were no more at risk of an untimely demise.
Ms Ding said: "No statistically significant elevated risks were found at higher levels of drinking."
However, the researchers caution that the findings do not give people carte blanche to drink as much alcohol as they want, especially if they have pre-existing cardiovascular health concerns
Ms Ding said: "Alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing other illnesses – such as cancers.
"Those with cardiovascular disease who do not drink should not be encouraged to take up drinking."
Alcohol-related deaths have increased by almost 20% since the first lockdown
The patients reported their average alcohol consumption. Information on subsequent heart attacks, strokes, angina or death was obtained from health, hospital admission and death registry records.
Cardiovascular disease is Britain’s biggest killer – claiming more than 160,000 lives a year. Around 7.6 million people in the UK are living with a heart or circulatory illness.
The findings are published in BMB Medicine.