Alcohol and Heart Health

Alcohol and Heart Health

By Meredith Price, MS, RD | March 8, 2021

Despite the fact that there may be some heart healthy aspects to drinking alcohol, there are downfalls to it as well.

Have you ever heard that drinking alcohol is good for your heart? There are a few reasons why you may have but the truth is that it’s not black and white. If someone does drink alcohol, it should only be done so in moderation. This means maximum one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is equal to about 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of hard liquor such as vodka or whiskey.

What may be healthy about alcohol? Studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol can increase HDL, the “good cholesterol”. However, more recent research suggests that HDL is not as protective as we once thought. Alcohol, from any source, may lower blood pressure while red wine contains resveratrol which acts as an antioxidant. Although the antioxidant activity that may be found in red wine can be beneficial, it is unclear how much one would need to consume to reap the benefits.

Despite the fact that there may be some heart healthy aspects to drinking alcohol, there are downfalls to it as well. Alcohol is high in calories and does not provide many other nutrient benefits. Therefore, if someone is trying to lose weight for health reasons, alcohol consumption can make it difficult to do so. Furthermore, alcohol can interact with certain medications and this should always be discussed with your doctor. Finally, there is strong evidence showing an association between alcohol consumption and cancer risk.

Although alcohol may have some benefits for heart health, it’s better to focus on exercise and a healthy, balanced diet which we know are extremely beneficial for cardiovascular health. If you’re someone that doesn’t drink alcohol now, we don’t recommend starting and if you do enjoy alcohol, remember to do so in moderation.

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About the Author
Meredith Price, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian who specializes in plant-based nutrition. She holds a master of science degree in human nutrition from Drexel University, and completed her dietetic internship through the University of Houston. She has worked as a dietitian in a variety of contexts, including clinical and academic settings, food service management and corporate wellness. LEARN MORE

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