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How Alcohol Reduces Risk of Heart Attacks and other Cardiovascular Diseases

Research has suggested another way in which drinking alcohol (beer, wine and distilled spirits) improves cardiovascular health.

A number of mechanisms have already been identified whereby sensible drinking promotes a healthy heart and circulatory system:

  • Alcohol improves blood lipid profile: 
    • It increases HDL ("good") cholesterol 
    • It decreases LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • Alcohol decreases thrombosis (blood clotting):
    • It reduces platelet aggregation 
    • It reduces fibrinogen (a blood clotter) 
    • It increases fibrinolysis (the process by which clots dissolve)
  • Alcohol also acts through additional ways:
    • It reduces coronary artery spasm in response to stress
    • It increases coronary blood flow
    • It reduces blood pressure
    • It reduces blood insulin level 
    • It increases estrogen levels

Research has now discovered that moderate alcohol drinking also improves the size of both HDL and LDL cholesterol particles in the blood, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by leading researcher Dr. Kenneth Mukamal and his colleagues. Improved cholesterol particle size has been linked to improved resistance to disease.

Heart disease is the major cause of death in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study asserts that "The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD (coronary heart disease) supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship....there are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake."  The protective effect or reduced risk of heart disease associated with moderate drinking is usually found to be in the range of one-third to one-half compared to teetotalers (alcohol abstainers or non-drinkers).

Nothing on this web site constitutes medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred.


  • Mukamal, K. L. et al. Alcohol consumption and lipoprotein subclasses in older adults. Journal of Clinical endocrinology & Metabolism, 2007 (April).

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Filed Under: Heart