Danish researchers have revealed that staying active, and drinking moderately can lower the risk of death from heart disease and other causes.
The study led by Professor Morten Gronbaek, Director of Research of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, and Professor Berit Heitmann, Director for Research of the Institute of Preventive Medicine at Copenhagen University Hospitals disclosed that people who neither drink alcohol nor exercise have a 30-49 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those who either drink, exercise or both.
The researchers examined the data of 11,914 Danish men and women aged 20 or older taking part in the larger Copenhagen City Heart Study and a 20-year follow up showed that there were 1,242 cases of fatal ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and 5,901 deaths from all causes.
"Our study shows that being both physically active and drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is important for lowering the risk of both fatal IHD and death from all causes," said Gronbaek.
"For both men and women, being physically active was associated with a significantly lower risk for both fatal IHD and all-cause mortality than being physically inactive; and drinking alcohol was associated with a lower risk of fatal IHD than abstaining," he added.
A weekly moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of all-cause mortality among both men and women, whereas the risk among heavy drinkers was similar to non-drinkers."
The researchers divided physical activities into three categories Physically inactive less than two hours of light physical activity a week, low level of activity that is light physical activity for two to four hours and moderate to high level of physical activity, a light physical activity for more than four hours a week or more vigorous activity for two to four hours a week.
And alcohol intake was total weekly intake. Non-drinkers consumed less than one drink a week, moderate drinkers had between 1-14 drinks a week, and heavy drinkers drank 15 or more a week.
The findings revealed that within each level of physical activity the risk of IHD was 30-31 per cent high among non-drinkers as compared to moderate drinkers.
Non-drinkers who had a moderate or high level of physical activity had a reduced risk at 31 and 33 per cent respectively compared to physically inactive non-drinkers.
People who drank at least one drink a week and were physically active had a 44-50 per cent lower risk of IHD compared to physically inactive non-drinkers.
"An important finding from our research for people who have reasons for alcohol abstention such as religious beliefs, previous alcoholism or pregnancy, is that physical activity can reverse some of the adverse health effects associated with alcohol abstention. People who did not drink but whose physical activity was moderate or high, had a lower risk of IHD than the inactive non-drinkers," said Jane Ostergaard Pedersen, the lead author and research assistant at the National Institute of Public Health,
They also found physically active people had 23 per lower risk of deaths from all causes as compared to physically inactive non-drinkers and those who are physically active and drinking at least one drink a week had 12-33 per cent lower risk of death.
"The lowest risk of death from all causes was observed among the physically active moderate drinkers and the highest risk among the physically inactive non- and heavy drinkers," said Ostergaard.
"Neither physical activity alone nor alcohol intake can completely reverse the increased risk associated with alcohol abstention and lack of physical activity. Thus, both moderate to high levels of physical activity and a moderate alcohol intake are important for lowering the risk of fatal IHD and deaths from all causes," she added.
The findings appear in the European Heart Journal.