When Non-drinkers Begin to Drink, Cardiovascular Disease Risk Drops

What happens when alcohol non-drinkers begin to drink? Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina have found that middle-aged non-drinkers who began drinking in moderation experienced a 38% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who continued abstaining.

The researchers studied 7,697 people aged 45 to 64 who were non-drinkers. They were participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study over a 10 year period.

The investigators found that 6% began consuming alcohol in moderation. That is, up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. during the follow-up period.

non-drinkers begin to drinkAfter 4 years of follow-up, new moderate drinkers had a 38% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease than did the non-drinkers. Even after adjusting for physical activity, Body Mass Index, demographic and cardiac risk factors, this difference persisted.

This study is very important. It provides more evidence that the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease is a result of the alcohol itself.

How Alcohol Helps the Heart & Brain

In addition, there is other evidence that alcohol reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically,  some of the ways it does so are understood.

For example, alcohol improves the blood in important ways. It increases “good” cholesterol (HDL)and decreases “bad” cholesterol (LDL). It also improves the size of cholesterol particles.

Alcohol reduces blood clotting. It does so in several ways. First, it reduces blood platelet clumping. Second, it reduces the blood’s clotting substance. Finally, it increases the process of dissolving clots.

In addition, alcohol helps in other ways. It reduces both blood pressure and insulin levels. It also reduces heart artery spasms. And it improves both estrogen levels and blood flow.

Abstaining from alcohol increases the chances for both poor health and earlier death. For more, see Alcohol and Health.


Web Pages

Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease: Moderate Drinking is Protective.  

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

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

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


Am Heart Assn. Controlling Your Risk Factors. NY: AHA, 2019.

Marler, J. Stroke for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley, 2013.

Nat Insti Neuro Disorders and Stroke. Preventing Stroke. Bethesda: The Institute, 2011.

Rinzler, C, and Graf, M. Controlling Cholesterol for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley, 2013.


King, Dana E., Mainous, Arch G. and Geesey, Mark E. Adopting moderate alcohol consumption in middle-age: Subsequent cardio events. Am J Med, 2008, 121(3).