Heart Attack Survival Increased by Drinking Alcohol

Research shows that drinking alcohol improves heart attack survival. This is true of drinking both before and after a heart attack.


        1. Heart Attack Survival.
        2. Alcohol, the Heart and Heart Attack.
        3. Resources on Heart Attack Survival.

I. Heart Attack Survival

This isn’t surprising. Drinking alcohol in moderation improves heart health. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This includes heart attacks. That is, myocardial infarctions (MI) or acute myocardial infarctions (AMI).


Here are some of the many studies on drinking alcohol and heart attack survival.

1. Researchers studied drinking, previous drinking, and prognosis after heart attack.

heart attack survival
Acute Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

They studied 1,346 patients age 45-70 after they had a non-fatal heart attack. For over eight years they followed the patients. The scientists recorded drinking at the time of the attack. They also recorded it five years before that time. They recorded recurrent hospitalization for non-fatal heart attack, stroke or heart failure. And they noted heart death as well as total death

The doctors compared abstainers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. The lowest risk for a second attack or death was for those having one to three drinks per day. The risk of hospitalization for recurrent non-fatal heart attack, stroke, or heart failure generally showed a similar pattern.1

2. Research also suggests that moderate drinking can aid already diseased hearts in men.

Researchers studied over 85,000 men for five years. The data came from the Harvard Physicians’ Health Study.

Among men who have had previous heart attacks, “moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant decrease in total mortality.” Those drinking two to six drinks a week had the lowest risk for dying. That’s compared to nondrinkers.

The researchers also found that the younger men had the same health benefits from drinking as the older men.2

Later Heart Attacks

3. Doctors looked at drinking before and after heart attacks. They wanted to know its effects on both later heart attacks and all causes among men who survived heart attacks.

heart attack survivalThe doctors followed 51,529 male health professionals over time. A total of 1,818 suffered from non-fatal heart attacks. They calculated long-term average drinking at the the time just before the attack. They then updated average drinking every four years afterward.

The subjects were compared to non-drinkers. Those who had up to about about 2/3 of a glass of alcohol per day averaged a 22% reduction in all-cause death. Those who had up to two glasses per day showed a 34% drop in risk. And those drank over two glasses per day had a 13% reduced risk of death from any cause.

The doctors then looked at cardiovascular deaths. The corresponding drops in risk of death were 26%, 42%, and two percent.

Long-term moderate drinking reduced the risk of death. And it did so for both heart attack and death from any cause among men who survived a first heart attack.3

4. Moderate drinking throughout the year before a heart attack increased heart attack survival over time.

Doctors collected facts on the prior drinking of 1,913 patients. This was done during their hospitalization for a heart attack. Then the doctors monitored the deaths of the patients over the next four years.

The doctors adjusted for age, sex and other factors. Light and moderate drinkers had lower death rates than patients who abstained. Moderate drinkers had the lowest death rate. It reduced their risk by 32%. That’s compared to abstainers. They also found that the health benefits were the same for beer, spirits (liquor), and wine.4

All-cause Death

5. Doctors made a follow-up study of 5,447 patients with vascular disease or diabetes. They did so after 4.7 years to determine the effects of drinking.

heart attack survivalAmong patients who had 10-20 drinks per week, the risk of coronary heart disease dropped about 60%. And the risk of stroke fell 33%. That’s compared to non-drinkers.

Moderate drinking greatly reduced the risk of amputation, vascular death, and all-cause death. But heavy drinking increased the risk of these problems.5

6. Researchers studied drinking and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). They looked at large samples of the US population. Light and moderate drinking greatly reduced the risk of death from CVD.

The investigators analyzed nine surveys conducted by the National Health Interview Survey. It’s a yearly survey of US adults. They found that light and moderate drinkers had greatly lower risk of death from CVD. That’s when compared with abstainers (including lifetime abstainers) and heavy drinkers. The risk was reduced about 40% among moderate drinkers. And by almost as much among light drinkers. The pattern of reduction was similar among both sexes and among different age categories.6


7. Moderate drinking may help patients recover from coronary stenting. Stenting uses a very small tube to remove blockages from arteries. Drinking alcohol appears to promote healing by reducing inflammation.

heart attack survivalResearchers analyzed data on alcohol beverage consumption, an inflammatory protein (CRP), and death in 483 people who underwent coronary stenting.

By the end of four years, 23% of the patients were readmitted for chest pain, had a heart attack, or died from heart-related causes. Moderate drinking reduced the risk of each of these outcomes so long as the patient’s CRP level was high enough.

Moderate drinking may promote heart health by reducing inflammation. It also reduces clotting, reduces “bad “cholesterol, and increases “good” cholesterol. It also increases coronary blood flow and reduces blood pressure.7

Reducing Damage

8. Moderate drinking (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) reduces the damage to effected tissue following a heart attack. Dr. Ron Korthuis and colleagues found that. This increases heart attack survival.

When a heart attack occurs, blood flow is reduced to several areas of the body. When the blood flow is restored, white blood cells stick to the walls of the arteries. Then they release toxins into the damaged tissues. This causes additional cell death and more damage.

But alcohol makes the artery walls slick. This stops the white blood cells from sticking to the damaged tissue.

Korthuis’ team compared those who had alcohol before their heart attacks with those who hadn’t. They found that the tissue effected by the low blood flow was much healthier than in those without alcohol.8

9. Doctors studied 353 male heart attack survivors. Men who had two to four drinks after a heart attack are less likely to have a second one. That’s compared to abstainers.

Those who had an average of two drinks per day were 59% less likely to have another heart attack. Men who had an average of four drinks per day were 52% less likely. Again, compared to abstainers.9

II. Alcohol, the Heart and Heart Attack

Moderate drinking improves cardiovascular health in many ways. They include these.

  1. Alcohol improves blood lipid profile
    • Increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
    • Decreasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
    • Improveing the size of HDL and LDL particles.
  2. Alcohol decreases blood clotting.
    • Reducing platelet clumping.
    • Reducing a blood clotter.
    • Increasing the process of dissolving clots.
  3. Alcohol also acts through other ways.
    • Reducing heart artery spasm.
    • Increasing heart blood flow.
    • Reducing blood pressure.
    • Reducing blood insulin level.
    • Increasing estrogen levels.

Doctors who reviewed the research concluded that another benefit may be through a AKT/NRF2-dependent mechanism.

Drinking in moderation “increases the involvement of nuclear factor (erythrioid-derived 2)-like (NFE2L2/NRF2) as well as AKT that act as regulators of oxidative balance during oxidative stress responses.”10

The research evidence from around the world shows that moderate drinking causes improved health and longer life. It also improves heart attack survival.

Of course, anyone who has had a heart attack should discuss the use of alcohol with a doctor.

III. Resources on Heart Attack Survival

Popular Books
Footnotes for Heart Attack Survival

1.  Janszky, I., et al. Alcohol and long-term prognosis after a first acute myocardial infarction. Euro Heart J, 29(1), 45-53.

2. Gaziano, J., et al. Potential mortality benefits for drinkers with previous heart attacks. Lancet, 352, M 1882-1885.

3. Pai, J., et al. Long-term alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction. Euro Heart J.

4. Mukamal, K. Prior alcohol consumption and mortality following acute myocardial infarction. JAMA,285(15):1965-70.

5. Beulens, J., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of recurrent cardiovascular events and mortality.  Athero.

6. Mukamal, K., et al. Alcohol consumption and cardiovascular mortality. J Am Coll Cardio, 55, 1328-1335.

7. Zairis, M., et al. C Reactive protein, moderate alcohol consumption, and long term prognosis after successful coronary stenting. Heart, 90, 419-424.

8. Kamada, K., et al.  Antecedent ethanol ingestion prevents postichemic microvascular dysfunction. Pathophys, 10(2), 131-7.

9. de Lorgeril, M., et al. Wine drinking and risks of cardiovascular complications after recent acute myocardial infarction. Circ, 106, 1465-1469.

10. Walker, R., et al. The good, the bad, and the ugly with alcohol use on the heart. Alco Clin Exper Res.

    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor with alcohol and heart attack survival questions.