Drink This to Keep Your Heart Healthy

For years, you've heard me tout the benefits of red wine...

They're widely known and well-researched. But folks have asked me, "What about other types of alcohol?"

Today, I want to focus on one of my favorite nighttime indulgences – whiskey.

Turns out, whiskey is great for your heart, too.

One of the main benefits of wine comes from the polyphenol antioxidants, which whiskey also contains. These beneficial little compounds make their way into the whiskey during the aging process – they actually seep out of the oak barrels that the whiskey (and red wine) is housed and aged in.

Polyphenols are a type of vasodilator, which means they decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by opening up blood vessels. That's why a small glass of whiskey helps modulate blood pressure and doesn't make your heart work so hard. A 2014 study found that whiskey also reduces uric acid levels in the body, a leading cause of gout.

But whiskey's health benefits are nothing new... It was even allowed during Prohibition because it was regarded as a medicine. We know that whiskey:

  • Fights inflammation by lowering "free radicals."
  • Raises "good" cholesterol and helps protect your brain against Alzheimer's disease.
  • And fights diabetes.

Keep in mind that whiskey isn't exactly like wine. Although whiskey has polyphenols, they aren't at the level you'll find in wine. And remember, alcohol acts as a diuretic – it makes your kidneys excrete fluid faster than normal – and since the alcohol is more concentrated in whiskey than in beer or wine, it doesn't have enough liquid to rehydrate you. That's why it's important to remember to follow your whiskey with a tall chaser of water, like I do after my evening glass of Knob Creek Rye Whiskey.

Now, let's dig into this week's Q&A... As always, please keep sending us your questions, comments, and suggestions to  [email protected]. We read every e-mail.

Q: Are all sugars the same? Is there a difference between natural sugars (from fruits like blueberries), and granulated? My orange juice says 22 grams. Is it OK or should I forget it? – G.K.

A: Drinking juice is not the same as eating fruit... Lots of people load up on fruit juices as a healthy alternative to sodas and other sweet drinks. And many manufacturers market them as healthy super-foods. What they really are is a great way to mainline sugar.

A 2012 study found that people who drink three or more glasses of fruit juice per day are 74% more likely to develop colorectal cancer. And colon cancer is common. More than 130,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S. annually. Why risk it?

Fruit is a valuable part of any diet, but juice is not the same. Fruits are loaded with both cancer-fighting antioxidants and fiber. Fruit juice lacks the fiber of whole fruit. The fiber in the fruit helps to slow the absorption of sugar. Because fruit juice is high in sugar – and there's nothing in it to slow the absorption – it causes spikes in glucose that increase your risk of developing diabetes and cancer.

So watch your intake of fruit juice... It's hard to eat four oranges and the accompanying sugars. But it's easy to down the equivalent amount of O.J.

Q: You've mention glaucoma a few times recently, but you haven't discussed prevention. I'm only in my 40s, but my father had glaucoma. – S.T.

A: Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. It affects 2% of adults over 40, and it's expected that 3.3 million adults in the U.S. over age 40 had glaucoma last year. This condition occurs when excess pressure in your eye eventually damages your optic nerve. It can lead to vision loss and total blindness.

Turns out, exercising regularly can help prevent glaucoma... A 2017 study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that folks who exercised regularly had a lower risk of developing the eye condition. Although researchers said they'll need to study it further, they think by exercising enough to increase your heart rate, you can reduce the pressure on your eye. It's one more reason to take that walk or jog.

Whether you're exercising or not, you may be due for an eye exam – especially if you have a family history of glaucoma. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that folks ages 40 to 54 should get screened every one to three years... ages 55 to 64 should be tested every one to two years... and people ages 65 and older should be screened every six to 12 months.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
June 4, 2021