Drinking and Coronary Artery Disease Risk in US Veterans: Effects of Alcohol

Drinking and coronary artery disease risk are related. The evidence clearly shows that drinking alcohol in moderation leads to lower risk of coronary artery disease. That’s one of the reasons it generally leads to longer life.

Beer, wine and distilled spirits appear to have the same health benefits. Spirits include rum, vodka, tequila, gin, whiskey, and similar drinks.

drinking and coronary arteryCoronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Another common name  for coronary heart disease is heart disease.

Researchers studied the effect of moderate drinking on the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) among U.S. veterans. To do so, they used self‐reported alcohol consumption from Million Veteran Program participants. The number totaled 156,728. Their mean age was 65.3 years and 91% were men.

The mean follow‐up period was 2.9 years. During that time, there were 6,153 CAD events. Researchers adjusted for age, body mass index, education, exercise, gender, race, and smoking.


Compared with never drinkers,

  • Former drinkers had a 2% increased risk of CAD.
  • Current drinkers of under 1/2 glass per day had a 17% lower risk.
  • Drinkers of 1/2 to one drink per day had a 23% reduced risk.
  • Those who had one to two drinks per day had a 29% lower risk.
  • Drinkers having two to three drinks daily had a 38% reduced risk.
  • Consumers of three to four drinks a day had a 42% lower risk.
  • Drinkers consuming  over four drinks each day had a 5% reduced risk.

Thus, even those who consumed over four drinks each day had a lower risk of CAD than life-long alcohol abstainers.

The researchers also compared those drinking three or more days per week with those drinking one or fewer days weekly. At any level of consumption, frequent drinkers had lower risk of CAD. Whether veterans drank beer, wine, or spirits had no impact on the findings.

Resources on Drinking and Coronary Artery Disease

A.D.A.M., Inc. Coronary Artery Disease. New York: Films Media Group, 2013.

Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease: Moderate Drinking is Protective

Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (How Much to Drink for Good … 

Cardiovascular Health Benefitted from Drinking Over Guidelines

Drinking Alcohol and Mortality in Cardiovascular Disease Patients

Drinking Alcohol and Risk of Cardiovascular Death.

Effects of Alcohol on Risk of Strokes and Heart Attacks (Health Facts).

Emery, T. Heart Disease. Queensland: Wildbear, 2014. (video)

Kritchmar, P., et al. Coronary Artery Disease. Princeton, NJ: Films Human & Sci, 2005.

Lifestyle and Cardiovascular Disease & Mortality among Middle-Aged & Older Women.

Moderate Drinking Reduces Heart and Circulation Diseases (Cardiovascular Diseases).


Source: Song, R., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of coronary artery disease (from the Million Veteran Program), J Card, 2018, 121.