Alcohol: A Little Could Do Your Heart Good

Moderate drinking may reduce heart attack, heart failure risk

(RxWiki News) An evening libation could be a whole lot more than just an opportunity to relax.

Two new studies from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) found that moderate drinking may reduce the risks for both heart attack and heart failure.

Lead author of both studies Imre Janszky, MD, PhD, said in a press release, "It's primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol, among other things. But alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it's best to drink moderate amounts relatively often." Dr. Janszky is a professor of social medicine at NTNU.

In the first study, Dr. Janszky and team followed 60,665 Norwegian men and women without heart failure over a 20-year period. Participants who drank alcohol five or more times per month had a 21 percent lower risk for heart failure compared to those who drank less and nondrinkers.

In the second study, Dr. Janszky and team divided 58,827 participants into groups by how much and how often they drank. About 3,000 of these participants experienced a heart attack between 1995 and 2008. Those who regularly drank alcohol had a significantly lower rate of heart attack, with each additional drink lowering heart attack risk by 28 percent.

In both studies, the type of alcohol — beer, wine or liquor — made no difference in the outcomes.

While these findings are similar to those from other countries, researchers noted that one difference is population. In Norway, about 41 percent of residents don't drink alcohol at all. In countries like the US, the practice is much more common.

Dr. Janszky said that these findings should not encourage people to drink heavily. In fact, some people should not drink alcohol at all.

"I'm not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time," Dr. Janszky said. "We've only been studying the heart, and it's important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn't mean it's necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), weight control, a healthy diet and regular exercise can have the same effect on cholesterol as moderate alcohol consumption. The AHA does not recommend the use of alcohol as part of a heart healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Janszky and team also found that consuming more than five drinks per week actually increased the risks for heart disease and liver damage.

The heart failure study was published January 15 in the International Journal of Cardiology. Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

The heart attack study was published September 14 in the Journal of Internal Medicine. The Swedish Research Council, the Karolinska Institutet and the Health Trust of Nord-Trøndelag funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
February 25, 2016