New research found that moderate alcohol consumption among elderly patients seemed to prevent age-related brain injuries such as silent stroke and white matter disease. Dr Kenneth Mukamal and colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston team studied 3,376 patients over the age of 65 who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Alcohol intake was measured according to how often 12 ounces of beer, 6 ounces of wine or shots of spirits were consumed. Each patient underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging to measure the amount of brain damage. Alcohol appeared to lower stroke risk, with heavier drinkers 41 per cent less likely to suffer silent stokes than abstainers. Moderate alcohol intake was also associated with a reduced incidence of white brain matter disease than a heavier alcohol intake. According to Dr Mukamal, the beneficial effects of alcohol were probably derived from its ability to raise levels of "good" cholesterol and to thin the blood, which could explain the lowered risk of silent strokes with moderate intake. "Overall, we found that non-drinkers have the most strokes and white matter disease," said Dr Mukamal. "Light-to-moderate drinkers have fewer strokes and the least amount of white matter disease, but somewhat greater atrophy [degeneration]. Moderately heavy drinkers have the fewest strokes but more white matter disease and the most atrophy," he said. According to Recommendations by the American Heart Association, men who drink an average of one to two drinks per day and women who drink one per day have a reduced risk of heart disease as a result. However, they do not recommend that people start drinking if they do not already do so because of other associated risks, such as obesity and hypertension.