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Alcohol and Your Heart

Dr. Nissen answers the questions: Is alcohol good for your heart? If so what type and how much?

The effect of alcohol on your heart is complex. For some people, even moderate alcohol use carries major risks. Research is ongoing to clarify the relationship of alcohol and heart disease.

You may have heard that moderate alcohol consumption (red wine or beer) may offer some people protection against heart disease. However, until more is known about the pros and cons of alcohol consumption, the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking alcohol for better heart health.

You should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol.

What is Moderate and What is Excessive?

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. Excessive alcohol use is defined as drinking more than three drinks per day for men or women.

When is Alcohol Use Harmful?

alcohol heart surgery

By definition, one drink equals 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Moderate or minimal alcohol use is harmful for people who have:

  • A personal or family history of alcohol abuse
  • A personal or family history of liver disease or pancreatitis
  • Heart failure, cardiomyopathy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), history of sudden cardiac death or stroke, or high triglycedrides
  • Had a heart attack (alcohol can cause further damage to the heart muscle)
  • Diabetes (alcohol affects your blood glucose level)

People who are taking antidepressants, antibiotics, pain medications and other medications should speak to their doctor before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with the effects of your medications and can cause serious side effects. You should not drink alcohol if you are pregnant.

If you are in doubt about whether or not consuming alcohol is safe for you, check with your doctor.

When to Call

If you are concerned about how your alcohol use is affecting your health and your relationships with others, please talk with your primary physician, your cardiologist, or one of our experienced chemical dependency nurses by calling 216.444.4836 or 800.223.2273 ext. 4-4836.

Reviewed: 6/06

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2015 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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