Is it ok to drink alcohol if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD)? Is this harmful or helpful? What does the medical research say?
- What We Know
- What We’re Learning
- Study Results
I. What We Know.
Medical research shows that moderate drinking is linked to lower risk of CVD. These include include things such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and blocked arteries. There are many reasons why moderate drinking reduce such problems. They include these.
A. Increasing “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
B. Decreasing blood clotting.
C. Increasing blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and reducing blood insulin level.
Moderate alcohol consumers also tend to have better health than either abstainers or alcohol abusers.
Also, moderate drinkers tend to live longer. That is, they have greater longevity than those who don’t drink alcohol or those who abuse it.
In addition, moderate drinking increases the chance of surviving a heart attack.
And abstainers who begin drinking benefit. For example, a ten-year study analyzed thousands of non-drinkers. During that time 6% began drinking in moderation. After four years, new moderate drinkers had a 38% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s in comparison to those who continued abstaining.1
II. What We’re Learning.
Doctors have long known that moderate drinking reduces the risk of CVD. Nevertheless, doctors have generally advised such patients to refrain from drinking.
However, research suggests that moderate drinking might help those with CVD. Specifically, it could reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Researchers at University of Cambridge, University College London, and University of Sydney investigated the evidence. To do so, they collected data from multiple resources. This included the U.K. Biobank Study. That’s a database holding detailed health information of over 500,000 people in the U.K.
Over 48,000 of them had suffered heart attack, stroke or angina. (Angina is severe chest pain.) Over the next eight years, the researchers examined subsequent cardiovascular problems.
III. Study Results.
The study found that it was a benefit to drink an average of a little over one drink per day. Those with CVD were up to 50% less likely to have another related problem. That is, another heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Nor to die from any cause.
IV. Resources: Drinking with Cardiovascular Disease.
Ding, C. et al. Association of alcohol consumption with morbidity and mortality in patients with cardiovascular disease: original data and meta-analysis. BMC Med, 2021, 19, art #167.
1. King, D., et al. Adopting moderate alcohol consumption in middle age: subsequent cardiovascular events. Am J Med, 2008, 121(3), 201-206. Merlo, L & Gold, M. Middle-age initiation of alcohol consumption. Am J Med, 2008, 121(9), 9.
Of course, this website makes no suggestions about drinking. So please see your doctor for that.