Moderate Drinking Less Effective at Preventing Heart Disease Than Previously Thought

JUNE 15, 2017
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Although moderate drinking is commonly thought to lower an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared with heavy drinking or abstinence, the results of a recent study suggest that these protective benefits may only extend to certain heart conditions.

The study, published in BMJ, analyzed data on 1.93 million individuals with no history of CVD. After a median follow-up period of 6 years, the research team found that moderate drinking (defined as no more than 14 units of alcohol a week) was associated with reduced risks of unstable angina, myocardial infarction, unheralded coronary death, heart failure, ischaemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm compared with not drinking. However, moderate drinking was not linked to any reductions in chronic stable angina, sudden coronary death, transient ischaemic attack, or intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Based on their findings, the researchers advise health care providers to recommend that their patients lower their CVD risk through more effective ways than moderate drinking, such as exercising and quitting smoking.

“This has implications for patient counselling, public health communication, and disease prediction algorithms and suggests the necessity for a more nuanced approach to the role of alcohol consumption in the prevention of cardiovascular disease,” the study authors concluded.