Credit: Chaloner Woods

Our happy hour plans have just been validated: New research shows that drinking regularly is actually rather good for our heart.

A series of studies published in the International Journal of Cardiology and another in the Journal of Internal Medicine, discovered that those of us who enjoy 3-5 drinks a week were 33 percent less likely to have heart failure than those who don’t drink or drink less often.

The studies, or as we refer to them around the office, the best research ever, were completed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. We’ve long been told that red wine is good for our hearts, but in this research, all alcohol was shown to have this benefit. The participants enjoyed wine, beer and liquor and for each drink they had (up to 5), their risk of heart disease was reduced by 28 percent.

And while it sounds like a dream come true, the results are not an excuse to go binging. If you were to enjoy 10 drinks in a week, your heart health benefits would not double. "I'm not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time. We've only been studying the heart, and it's important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn't mean it's necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart," says Imre Janszky, a professor of social medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in an interview with Science Daily. “It's primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol, among other things. But alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it's best to drink moderate amounts relatively often," he says. Keep in mind though that you can take a good thing too far. Heavy drinking is associated with other health issues, like liver disease and weight gain.

But, in moderation, booze isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s pretty great for us – and doctors agree. “Having one serving of alcohol per day does several good things for our health. It improves our cholesterol profile, decreases stress levels, improves insulin sensitivity (meaning better blood sugar control), and decreases clotting risk (meaning less heart attack risk). Red wine even has additional benefits as the antioxidants in red wine decrease oxidation and have multiple biochemical benefits,” says Steven Masley, MD, a physician, nutritionist, trained chef, and president of the Masley Optimal Health Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The challenge is how much alcohol is a benefit. “If you look at a graph with death risk versus servings per day, it looks like a J-shaped curve,” says Dr. Masley. “One serving per day has the lowest risk, 2 servings per day is similar to none, 3 servings per day is harmful, and four servings per day is very bad for your health. If you can’t limit yourself to 1-2 servings per day, don’t drink,” says Dr. Masley.

So, cheers! We have a whole new reason to hit the bar after work today: We’re drinking to our health! (But just a little bit).