Alcohol and Heart Disease
While research on heart disease and alcohol has shown that moderate amounts may be a preventive measure, drinking too much can cause a variety of health problems. It's important to remember that moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. And if you are a nondrinker, these findings on alcohol and heart disease should not be taken as a recommendation to start drinking.
Alcohol and Heart Disease: An Overview
People often wonder if it is okay to drink alcohol. For most people, drinking alcohol is fine -- as long as it is done in moderation. In fact, moderate amounts of alcohol have actually been shown to help protect against heart disease, stroke, and heart or blood vessel-related death, reducing the risk between 25 and 40 percent. On the other hand, drinking too much alcohol can harm the harm the liver, brain, and heart.
What Is Moderate Drinking?
When healthcare providers recommend moderate alcohol drinking, they mean no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Because the alcohol content in drinks varies, what counts as one drink also varies. When healthcare providers talk about one alcoholic drink, they are referring to one of the following examples:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1½ ounces of 80-proof whiskey or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
Positive Effects of Alcohol on Heart Disease
Alcohol intake increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) but does not lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Research studies have shown that HDL can be raised, on average, by 4.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) with moderate alcohol consumption.
If you are a nondrinker, this is not a recommendation to start drinking. Moreover, if you already have heart disease, you should be especially careful about using alcohol.