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 1 to 2 drinks a day.
- For women, limit alcohol to 1 drink a day.
One drink is defined as:
- 4 ounces (118 milliliters, mL) of wine
- 12 ounces (355 mL) of beer
- 1 1/2 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof spirits
- 1 ounce (30 mL) 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
Lange RA, Hillis LD. Cardiomyopathies induced by drugs or toxins. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 80.
Mozaffarian D. Nutrition and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 49.
US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture website. 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans: eighth edition. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed March 19, 2020.
Review Date 4/9/2020
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.