Woman having a glass of wine to help lower risk of heart disease

Alcohol and Heart Disease: Is Moderate Drinking Good?

Alcohol and Heart Disease: Is Moderate Drinking Good?

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

If you enjoy a casual drink here or there and are concerned about the effects it may be having on your body, worry not! A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology revealed that moderate alcohol consumption may have protective effects against the risk of heart disease and may even lower the risk of mortality from all causes.

The study, led by researchers at Monash University School of Public Health and Prevention Medicine, analyzed data of 18,000 Americas and Australians over the age of 70. A crucial aspect of the study was that participants were healthy, without any previous record of cardiovascular disease events, diagnosed dementia, or any independence-limiting disability. They were followed for over four years and answered self-reporting questionnaires about how many days a week they drank and the average standard drinks per day they had.

Based on the information, researchers calculated alcohol intake in grams per week; a standard drink in the US is equivalent to 14 grams and 10 grams in Australia. The researchers then organized the information into five groups:

  • No alcohol consumption
  • 1-50 g/week
  • 51-100 g/week
  • 101-150 g/week
  • >150 g/week

The study found that regardless of gender, participants who consumed 51-100 g/week (between 3.5 to 7 drinks), which they defined as moderate alcohol consumption, had a reduced risk of heart disease and a lower risk of mortality, when compared to those who never consume alcohol.

But before you start pouring your drink of choice, it's important to interpret these findings with caution. While it may be true that having an occasional drink throughout the week can benefit your health, overindulging in alcohol consumption is linked to numerous health risks, including high blood pressure, pancreatic and liver disease, cancer, and cognitive and psychological disorders. The main takeaway? Moderation is imperative.

What is considered an "alcohol moderate intake"?

The American Heart Association describes moderate alcohol consumption as an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men. Whether you enjoy a glass of red wine in the afternoon or end your evenings with a whisky on the rocks, sticking to moderate intake is the best way to maintain heart and whole-body health.

Does heavy drinking cause heart problems?

Heavy drinking has been linked with elevated triglyceride levels in the bloodstream, which can build up in the artery walls and lead to heart failure, coronary heart disease, or a heart attack, among other heart-related health concerns.

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy and alcohol abuse

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a progressive disorder caused by alcohol abuse that affects the heart muscles. It weakens and thins the heart muscle walls, causing them to lose their ability to pump blood adequately. This can lead to arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats, heart failure or other complications.

Three ways to keep your heart healthy

Keeping your heart healthy is essential for a long, fulfilling life. In addition to building sustainable daily habits that support a heart-friendly lifestyle, being mindful of your drinking will also go a long way.

Not sure where to start? Here are three ideas to help keep your ticker strong and happy!

  1. Work up a sweat

    —The health benefits of having a regular fitness routine go beyond looking good in your favorite pair of jeans—cardiovascular exercise has heart-friendly benefits, too. Working out has been shown to lower blood pressure, strengthen heart (and other) muscles, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or your "good cholesterol," and maintain healthy levels of other fats. And no, you don't have to spend hours at the gym to get your heart gains. Whether you choose jogging, swimming, or biking, just three to four times a week, 30 minutes a day is all it takes.
  2. Eat your way to a healthy heart

    —Limiting processed food intake and incorporating foods like leafy greens, natto, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats into your meals will take your heart health to another level.
  3. Work on your "zen"

    —While stress may be linked to many health problems, it's not the villain in your wellness journey. That "fight or flight" response is a biological process designed to keep you alert and alive. The important thing is to manage your response to stress—and meditation, mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and exercise can all help you keep calm and carry on!



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