People who drank two large glasses of wine a day were 13 per cent less likely to suffer another cardiac' event', such as a heart attack
For years, research has suggested a daily tipple of wine may help to prevent heart disease.
Now it seems it even has benefits for those who have already suffered a heart attack.
New research shows patients who have had a heart attack are less likely to have another one - and stand a better chance of living longer - if they enjoy wine in moderation, rather than abstaining.
The study, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, is one of the first to look at how wine affects mortality in those who already have serious heart disease.
Men and women drinking around half a litre of either red or white wine a day - equivalent to two large glasses - were 13 per cent less likely to suffer another cardiac 'event', such as a heart attack.
They also reduced their chances of dying from heart disease by around 17 per cent compared to non-drinkers.
But the researchers, from Harvard Medical School, and a number of research centres across Italy, stressed the findings only apply to patients who were already drinking wine on a regular basis when they joined the study.
They warned against heart attack victims taking up the habit just to try and prevent future problems.
Heart disease is Britain's biggest killer. Around 270,000 people a year suffer a heart attack and nearly one in three die before they reach hospital.
Fatty diets, lack of exercise and smoking are all key risk factors.
Red wine in particular has been found to have a protective effect when consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle.
It contains antioxidants which are thought to prevent heart disease by reducing the build-up of harmful cholesterol and dampening down inflammation in blood vessels.
Along with high intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, wine is thought to account for lower heart disease rates in Mediterranean countries compared to those in northern Europe.
In the latest study, researchers tracked 11,248 Italian men and women who had recently survived heart attacks.
Along with high intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, wine is thought to account for lower heart disease rates in Mediterranean countries
They studied their dietary habits as well as their wine intake. They then followed them up to see how many suffered further cardiac problems in the three-and-a-half years after their heart attack and how many died in the seven years afterwards.
The results showed those drinking up to half a litre a day were 13 per cent less likely to fall ill again with cardiac problems and had a mortality rate that was 17 per cent lower than among non-drinkers.
In a report on their findings, the researchers said as well as any protective effect from drinking wine, it's possible that light to moderate drinkers live generally healthier lifestyles, which may explain their lower risk.
'Our data suggest that in subjects with established cardiovascular disease, wine has similar effects to those in the general population.
'In our study, subjects who drank wine appeared healthier than those who did not drink and we also found dietary habits were worse in those with high wine intake.'
Average wine consumption in the UK is around 28 litres per person per year.
Tracy Parker, dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'There may be some protective benefits to moderate drinking but, whether you have heart disease or not, this research is not a reason for you to start drinking alcohol if you don't already.
'There are much healthier ways to protect your heart, like keeping physically active, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and stopping smoking.
'If you do fancy a tipple, it's recommended men don't drink more than four units each day, while women shouldn't exceed three units.'
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