The affect that alcohol has on the heart is complex. With factors like the amount of alcohol you’re consuming per day, whether or not you’re in good health and any pre-existing conditions playing a part in how drinking can affect your body, it’s best to consult with your physician to determine if alcohol consumption is right for you.
Light to Moderate Drinking
Moderate alcohol use is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In fact, some studies have shown that light to moderate drinking may help lower your risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Here are a couple of ways that light alcohol consumption affects your body.
- Help you reach healthy cholesterol levels by raising your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
- Reduce blood clotting.
- Less inflammation
- Reduces your risk for coronary heart disease, according to the American College of Cardiology.
- Help protect your body from heart disease.
Excessive alcohol consumption is defined as drinking more than three drinks per day for both men and women. It’s no secret that excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking is bad for your overall health, but did you know that it can also have an effect on your gut health, heart and immune system? With several studies link excessive drinking to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle, making it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body, consuming copious amounts of alcohol can severely harm your mind, body and heart and lead to severe health problems later in life including:
- Atrial fibrillation
- An irregular or quivering heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure.
- Irregular heart rhythm that can be fatal, according to the American Heart Association.
- Increase the production of harmful bacteria and endotoxins in your gut.
- Weaken your intestinal barrier and allow bacteria and toxins to pass to pass from your gut, into your bloodstream and spread to your organs.
What about red wine?
For many years, drinking moderate amounts of has been thought of as a heart healthy alcohol because it contains antioxidants that can help prevent coronary artery disease which leads to heart attacks. Red wine is also known for being rich in polyphenols, or antioxidants, that help protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart. One polyphenol that has been recognized for its health benefits is resveratrol. Coming from the skin of grapes used to make red wine, resveratrol might help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol (otherwise known as the “bad cholesterol”) and prevent blood clots, according to recent studies from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School.
If you consume red wine, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, this means:
- Up to one drink a day for women of all ages.
- Up to one drink a day for men older than the age of 65.
- Up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
*The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more than women and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol.
While high alcohol consumption has been linked to various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, alcohol in moderation won’t significantly harm your heart health if you’re consuming it in a safe and moderate manner. While there is evidence to support that red wine may be good for your heart by preventing heart disease of lowering your risk of heart disease, don’t start drinking alcohol in an effort to lower your risk.
For reference, one drink is defined as follows: 12 ounces of beer or a wine cooler, five ounces of wine (red or white), or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, according to Medical News Today.