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It seems almost every day there's a new report about the health benefits of alcohol. Most recently the New England Journal of Medicine reported that drinking moderate amounts (up to one drink per day) may keep women mentally sharp as they get older. The study, based on data from the prestigious Nurses' Health Study, found that participants 70 and older who had been moderate drinkers for two decades scored better on problem-solving tests than nondrinkers and had a 20 percent lower risk of mental decline. The protection appears to come with any type of alcohol, which experts say improves blood flow. Here are other reasons to toast your health:
Heart help: As little as one drink per day can slash risk of death from heart disease 41 percent for women 50 and older. Among women ages 25 to 42, a quarter to half a glass per day lowers the risk of hypertension by 14 percent. Also, CDC researchers found that women younger than 44 who had just one to two drinks per week were up to 60 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than nondrinkers.
Diabetes protection: Postmenopausal women who regularly consume two drinks a day, USDA researchers report, cut their insulin levels about 19 percent and triglycerides 10 percent.
Gallstone prevention: Having a daily drink can lower women's risk of needing surgery to remove gallstones 14 percent. Women are twice as likely as men to get these painful stones.
Bone strength: Data from the Nurses' Health Study also suggest that moderate drinking in adulthood may increase bone density in the spine of postmenopausal women. And other researchers have found that a drink a day protects bone density in the arm, leg, and spine.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, June 2005.