By Aly Walansky
Updated June 17, 2016
Credit: © David Prince

While a drink or two might make us feel better in the short term after a long day, experts haven’t been able to agree on whether or not alcohol is, in some way good for us. In fact, the latest study can’t even agree with itself.

A new study published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) compared the heart health of people living in either ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ counties in Texas. The research discovered that those in dry counties – those are where sale of alcohol is illegal – are more likely to have congestive heart failure or heart attacks. However, they are LESS likely to suffer from atrial fibrillation, which puts people at higher risk for strokes.

The study found that those in a ‘wet’ county have a 9 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 13 percent lower risk of congestive heart failure, but a 5 percent greater risk of atrial fibrillation.

Experts have long debated the effects of Alcohol and its heart benefits. Some studies will say moderate drinking is good for your heart, while others will say specific alcohols – like red wine – have heart-healthy benefits but other booze does not. “It is no surprise that people who drink more alcohol are more likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and as cardiologists we often see those types of patients in our offices,” says Nicole Weinberg, MD, cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. Studies about the positive health effects associated with red wine have more to do with antioxidants, but that data remains a bit muddied and is inconclusive. “My takeaway is that whenever someone tells me they drink alcohol because it is good for their heart, I always tell them not to use it as a treatment because none of the data presented to date is conclusive enough to prescribe as a form of preventative treatment and it places you at a higher risk for other medical problems,” says Dr. Weinberg.

So are there healthy reasons to drink? Inconclusive results aren’t particularly inspiring on that front—so you may want to stop trying to convince yourself you’re drinking for your health. You can just fess up and admit that you’re doing it because you like it.