Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol — one drink a day for women, two a day for men — may help protect your heart, according to research. Chronic stress has been shown to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. The latest research, presented at a recent American College of Cardiology scientific session, suggests that a moderate amount of alcohol can reduce stress by helping people relax. The researchers analyzed data on more than 53,000 adults, which included, for some participants, scans of regions of the brain known to be associated with stress. They found that stress-related brain activity was higher in nondrinkers and excessive drinkers than it was in moderate drinkers. Also, those who drank moderately were 20 percent less likely to have a major cardiovascular problem, such as a heart attack or stroke. A standard drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces (a shot) of liquor. The researchers, however, align with other health experts in cautioning that, despite the possible benefit, alcohol consumption carries serious risks for the heart, as well as the mind and body generally. For instance, it can increase the risk for some cancers, damage the liver, raise blood pressure, affect thinking, movement and behavior, and can lead to an addiction. Rather than using alcohol to combat stress, healthier strategies include staying physically active, engaging in stress-releasing activities such as yoga or meditation, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night, practicing relaxation techniques and making time for family, friends and activities that offer distraction from what is causing your stress.