Drinking alcohol may temporarily raise risk of heart attack and stroke

Heart attack and stroke risk may increase shortly after a person has an alcoholic drink, but that same beverage may protect against the same problems over the long-term, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

After a person has a drink, blood pressure rises and blood platelets—essential for clotting—become “stickier,” which increases heart attack and stroke risk. But, over time, regularly drinking moderate amounts of alcohol appears to increase levels of HDL, or good, cholesterol, which may reduce clotting.

The new study, published March 2, 2016 in the journal Circulation, is the first to synthesize all of the available information on the acute risk of heart attacks and strokes after drinking alcohol, said lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School. “Drinking smaller amounts has different effects in the subsequent hours than it does in the subsequent days and weeks,” she said in a HealthDay article in U.S. News & World Report.

She added that heavy drinking is never a good idea. “There is consistent evidence that heavy drinking raises the risk of heart attack and stroke both in the long and short term,” she said. “If you drink, do so in moderation.”

Read the HealthDay article in U.S. News & World Report: One Alcoholic Drink Might Temporarily Bump Up Heart Risk

Learn more

Binge drinking linked with higher heart attack risk (Harvard Chan School news)

Alcohol: Balancing risks and benefits (The Nutrition Source)