For years researchers have tried to determine why the French have such a lower rate of cardiovascular disease, given the amount of fat consumed in their diets. Red wine has been identified as one of the suspects in maintaining a healthy heart, but now a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has found that alcohol, in moderation, from any source not only maintains a healthy heart, but can reduce the damage to affected tissue following a heart attack.
When a heart attack occurs, blood flow is reduced to several areas of the body. When the blood flow is restored, several processes take place in the body that actually cause more harm to the damaged tissue. When the blood supply is reestablished, the blood carries white blood cells to the areas damaged by the reduction in blood delivery. Unfortunately, these blood cells act like miniature hand grenades as they stick to the walls of the arteries and release toxic chemicals into the damaged tissues, causing additional cell death.
“Following a heart attack, physicians try to establish reperfusion, or normalize the blood flow in the body,” said Ron Korthuis, distinguished professor and chair of medical pharmacology and physiology. “The damaged tissues begin releasing a variety of molecules that attract the white blood cells to the damaged areas. When the white blood cells arrive, they attach to the adhesion molecules on the blood vessel walls and then start destroying the damaged tissue. One type of adhesion molecule that is affected by the alcohol ingestion is P-selectin”
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