ATLANTA - For decades, we've followed the lead of the French, believing that nightly glass (or two) of merlot or pinot noir was okay to drink because red wine helps protect our hearts, right? Maybe not, says the Cardiovascular Group's, Dr. Salil Patel.
Lately, Dr. Patel has been telling his patients he and many cardiologists have a had a change of heart about recommending red wine.
Patel says there's no firm evidence red wine can boost heart health.
"And I'll tell them, 'We used to think this, and we've realized that was not correct, and our learning has changed,'" Patel says.
Dr. Patel says scientists used to hypothesize that drinking red wine was the reason Europeans, especially the French, have lower levels of cardiovascular disease than Americans. But, he says, the science isn't that simple.
"And it may not be the alcohol that's protecting them," Patel says. "Americans tend to drive more than European folks. We tend to exercise less. Our rates of obesity are higher."
Patel says red wine does contain heart-healthy antioxidants, but so do blueberries, which might be a better choice. If you really want to keep your heart healthy, Patel says, make sure you're getting enough sleep, try to eat a mostly plant-based diet and get out and get moving for at least 30 minutes on most days.
A recent study found any amount of alcohol, red wine included, can raise a person's risk of health problems. Patel says if you enjoy your nightly glass of wine, he recommends setting a limit on how much you drink. If you're a man, he says, drink no more than two glasses a day. If you're a woman, keep it to one glass a day.
"If you want to have a glass of wine, realize there may be a risk to it," Patel says. "But, if you find it to be enjoyable, that's okay. That is a conscious decision. But it shouldn't be done with the intention of improving your health. You have to be honest with yourself. If you're going to have that glass of wine, it's because you enjoy that glass."