Alcohol and Heart Disease

Topic Overview

Low to moderate alcohol use (no more than 2 drinks a day for men, 1 drink a day for women) might lower the risk of coronary artery disease.

If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. But if you do not drink alcohol, do not start drinking to try to lower your risk of heart disease. You have many other options that can lower your risk. These options include a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking. Talk to your doctor about your heart and the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol.

Equivalents of 1 alcohol drink

Beer

12 fl oz (355 mL)

Wine

5 fl oz (148 mL)

Hard alcohol

1.5 fl oz (44 mL)

Drinking too much alcohol can be dangerous and can cause problems. Having more than 1 alcohol drink a day for women or more than 2 drinks a day for men may:

  • Contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
  • Directly damage heart muscle (alcoholic cardiomyopathy), which may weaken the heart, leading to heart failure.
  • Cause abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
  • Slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in women.
  • Interact with your medicines if you are being treated for heart disease (or other diseases or conditions).
  • Increase your risk of liver disease.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Brien SE, et al. (2011). Effect of alcohol consumption on biological markers associated with risk of coronary heart disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies. BMJ. Published online Feb 22, 2011 (doi: 10.1136/bmj.d636).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised April 5, 2012

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