Heart and Vascular Health How Alcohol Affects Heart Health By Heart and Vascular Institute, August 3, 2015 Do you usually have a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer at the game? You may have heard about a link between alcohol and heart health and might wonder if that drink is good for you. Some studies have shown that moderate drinking might lower heart disease risks in some people, but this isn’t true for everyone. Healthy habits like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and coping with stress can help prevent heart disease and have few risks, if any at all. As for alcohol, the risks of drinking might be higher than any benefits. Before you crack open a bottle, learn how alcohol affects your heart, what moderation means, and how you can make healthy choices. Is Red Wine Good for the Heart? Will a daily glass of red wine protect you from heart disease? It depends. Some studies have shown a lower risk of heart disease in some people who regularly drink red wine in moderation. Red wine has compounds that might lower the risk of heart disease, but so do grapes, and red grape juice. It’s possible that people who regularly drink red wine in moderation also have other healthy habits that lower their risks overall, like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and getting regular exercise. What About Beer and Heart Health? Researchers in Italy have looked at a link between beer and heart health. Their study showed that some people who regularly drank beer in moderation also had a lower risk of heart disease, like some people who drank red wine. Again, it’s possible that some moderate beer drinkers make healthier lifestyle choices than others, which lowers their heart disease risk. What is moderate drinking? All alcoholic drinks have different numbers of calories and different amounts of alcohol. Moderate drinking means no more than two drinks per day for men, and one for women, with the following serving sizes: 12 ounces of beer 4 ounces of wine 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits How does alcohol affect the heart? The American Heart Association reports that no direct link has been found between alcohol itself and a lower risk of heart disease and does not recommend drinking to help lower your risk. In some people, drinking alcohol in moderation can lower the risk of heart disease by: Raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol Lowering the risk of dangerous blood clots It’s important to remember that you can also raise your good cholesterol level and lower your risk of blood clots by eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and not smoking. Heavy drinking can lead to serious heart problems, including: Higher triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood that can raise your total cholesterol level High blood pressure Heart failure Heart rhythm problems Heart muscle disease Stroke What’s right for me? Talk to your doctor about your family history, medical conditions, and the medicines you take. If you don’t already drink, don’t start. Healthy habits like eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and coping with stress can help lower your risk of heart disease without the problems connected to alcohol. Your doctor can give you advice about what’s right for you.