Bad news for drinkers

You hear it so often it starts to sound like gospel: Red wine is good for the heart.

Some go even further and claim that any booze at all will help keep your ticker on track, as long as the drinking habit stays moderate.

But if you're at risk for heart problems, alcohol is the last thing on Earth your heart needs.

It won't help -- and if you've got high blood pressure, even a very light drinking habit could actually HURT your heart and DAMAGE critical function!

Now, the latest research shows how just a little bit of booze can lead to the kinds of changes that could set the stage for heart failure.

In tests on 335 people with high blood pressure and no other heart problems -- people facing heart risk, but who haven't actually had a heart problem yet -- researchers found more signs of damage in the hearts of folks who drank.

They had thicker walls in the left ventricle, which is the part of your heart that pumps blood to the rest of your body.

Thicker walls might be great for a home in hurricane country... but you don't want them in your left ventricle, where thicker walls cause your heart to struggle to fill with blood between heartbeats.

Because that means it has a harder time sending out all of the blood your body needs, and that's a condition that can lead directly to heart failure.

Ready for the scary part? While the study finds the most damage in the folks who drink the most, it also finds that ANY alcohol at all will cause at least SOME changes in the heart.

In fact, the damage kicks in at an average of just an ounce a day.

That may not sound like much, and it's not. It's the equivalent of a glass of wine with dinner on Friday nights, or a beer every other weekend -- the kind of light habit that's so infrequent you wouldn't even call it a "habit."

Yet... it's enough to cause lasting damage in your heart.

Now, I'm not out to kill anyone's buzz. If you really want to drink, and you're healthy, there's a way to do it and minimize the risks.

Don't drink nightly... or even weekly. Instead, limit it to special occasions such as holidays and birthdays.

And even then, keep it to one drink.