How Does Alcohol Affect Your Heart?
posted by Orem Family Medicine | November 6, 2019
Some studies suggest drinking red wine supplies the body with beneficial substances like flavonoids or antioxidants. Others suggest wine increases HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels in the body. In many cases, however, studies that are favorable toward drinking alcoholic beverages simply didn’t find any negative correlations between drinking and heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) found that the perceived benefits of alcohol consumption from these studies might be the result of other factors, such as physical activity, diet or genetics. The AHA also found that you could get these same benefits from consuming fruits, vegetables, or red grape juice, from regular exercise, or from low-dose aspirin. Ultimately, there is no scientific evidence to prove that drinking alcohol can replace other methods for improving heart health, and the AHA does not recommend drinking alcohol to get these potential benefits.
Despite any studies exploring potential benefits and risks of alcohol consumption, only your doctor can help you determine how lifestyle choices can affect your heart health. Your healthcare provider will consider your personal and family health history as well as any current medical conditions that could be made worse by drinking alcoholic beverages. If your physician says moderate alcohol consumption will not pose a health risk for you, discuss the specifics of what that means for you. The AHA defines moderate alcohol intake as a maximum of one drink per day for women and one or two drinks per day for men. They define “a drink” as:
Remember that alcohol can interfere with some medications, including pain killers, antibiotics, anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, which can potentially pose serious health risks. You should avoid alcohol if you are pregnant, have a family history of alcoholism, have a disease of the liver or pancreas, diabetes, or suffer from any type of cardiovascular disease. Talking to your family doctor about your lifestyle choices—such as diet, exercise and alcohol consumption—is the safest and most effective way to be your healthiest self.
Medical research has linked alcohol with a variety of cardiovascular risks and other chronic diseases. For example, the American College of Cardiology published a study finding even moderate alcohol consumption increased the likelihood of atrial fibrillation recurrence. Drinking can increase the level of triglycerides in the bloodstream and lead to a variety of chronic health conditions including:
These potential risks can be made worse if you are already at risk for cardiovascular conditions.
“Alcohol and Heart Health.” American Heart Association (AHA). https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/alcohol-and-heart-health “Impact of Alcohol Abstinence in Moderate Drinkers With Atrial Fibrillation – Alcohol-AF.” American College of Cardiology (ACC). https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/clinical-trials/2019/03/17/00/04/alcohol-af
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.