Alcohol and Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, a time to spotlight the importance of heart health.

You might already know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, but here are a few key facts about alcohol and your heart health to know:

How Does Drinking Relate to Heart Health?

Heart health might not be the very first thing that comes to mind when considering alcohol consumption, but the two are inextricably linked. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking contributes significantly to several cardiovascular diseases. Heavy alcohol consumption (> four drinks in a day) increases risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Heavy drinking is the third leading preventable cause of death overall, and cardiovascular diseases make up a significant part of that substantial public health burden. Unfortunately, heavy drinking (which the CDC calls “binge” drinking) is extremely common among US adults. Reducing heavy drinking could help prevent future heart disease and death.

But Wait, Isn’t Red Wine Good for Your Heart?

Light to moderate drinking may potentially reduce cardiovascular risk, particularly for middle-aged men. The effect is likely from alcohol itself, not a particular beverage. However, for most people, especially women, drinking alcoholic beverages most likely offers no benefit, and may increase risk for other diseases such as breast cancer. Thus, The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking in order to reduce cardiovascular risk. There are other ways to reduce risk, such as exercise, eating in moderation, and the use of preventive medications if indicated. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

What’s the Takeaway?

Heart Month is a time to reflect on how you invest in your heart health. Alcohol, when consumed often and in large amounts, can adversely affect many organ systems and cause medical problems. The takeaway is – if you do drink, moderation is key. This means no more than four US “standard” drinks in any day, or 7-14 drinks in any seven days for a healthy adult. Keeping track of your drinking, spacing alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages, and drinking no more than 3-4 times weekly are good strategies to keep tabs on your own drinking.

Thanks for joining us in observing American Heart Month. I hope you’re already well on your way to a healthy and happy 2018!