Studies have shown that adults who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol may be less likely to develop heart disease than those who do not drink at all or are heavy drinkers. However, people who do not drink alcohol should not start just because they want to avoid developing heart disease.
There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. DO NOT begin drinking or drink more often just to lower your risk of heart disease. Heavier drinking can harm the heart and liver. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who abuse alcohol.
Health care providers recommend that if you drink alcohol, drink only light to moderate amounts:
- For men, limit alcohol to one to two drinks a day.
- For women, limit alcohol to one drink a day.
One drink is defined as:
- 4 ounces of wine
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1½ ounces of 80-proof spirits
- 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits
Though research has found that alcohol may help prevent heart disease, much more effective ways to prevent heart disease include:
- Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol
- Exercising and following a low-fat, healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Maintaining an ideal weight
Anyone who has heart disease or heart failure should talk to their provider before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can make heart failure and other heart problems worse.
Health and wine; Wine and heart disease; Preventing heart disease - wine; Preventing heart disease - alcohol
Brien SE, Ronksley PE, Turner BJ, Mukamal KJ, Ghali WA. Effect of alcohol consumption on biological markers associated with risk of coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies. BMJ. 2011;342:d636. PMID: 21343206 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21343206.
Mozaffarian D, Nutrition and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 46.
United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2010. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 2010.
Update Date 4/11/2015
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, medical director and director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.