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Health Questions

Wine and heart health

Definition

Studies have shown that adults who drink light-to-moderate amounts of white and red wine, beer, and distilled spirits (hard liquor) are less likely to develop heart disease than those who do not drink at all or are heavy drinkers.

Alternative Names

Health and wine

Information

Light-to-moderate alcohol use means having two to seven drinks per week. Heavier drinking can harm the heart and liver. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who abuse alcohol.

Some of the reasons why alcohol may help the heart when used in light-to-moderate amounts:

  • Increases the amount of HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • Decreases the chance of forming clots
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Increases antioxidant activity (red wine contains antioxidants called flavonoids)

There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. It is not recommended that you begin drinking or drink more often just to decrease your risk for heart disease.

The American Heart Association and other experts say there are much more effective ways to prevent heart disease, including:

  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Exercising and following a low-fat, healthy diet
  • Not smoking
  • Keeping at an ideal weight

There is much more scientific proof to support these tried and true methods than to support drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

Anyone who has active heart disease or heart failure should talk to their doctor before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can make heart failure and other heart problems worse.

References

United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2010. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2010.

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.

Lange RA, Hillis LD. Toxins and the heart. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 73.


Review Date: 6/8/2012
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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