Alcohol and Heart Disease

More than 100 prospective studies show an inverse association between moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes. (1) The effect is fairly consistent, corresponding to a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in risk. Here are the results of some large prospective studies of alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease.

 Name, Participants Duration
 Association with Moderate Alcohol Consumption*
Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk cohort: 97,432 men and women aged 40–79 10 years 12%–20% decreased risk of all-cause mortality in men and women who consumed less than 23 grams per day of alcohol; heavy drinking increased the risk of all-cause mortality (2)
Health Professionals Follow-up Study: 38,077 male health professionals aged 40–75 12 years 35% reduced risk of myocardial infarction (3)
Eastern France cohort: 34,014 men and women 10–15 years 25–30% reduced risk of cardiovascular death (4)
Cancer Prevention Study II: 489,626 men and women aged 30–104 9 years 30–40% reduced risk of cardiovascular death; mortality from all causes increased with heavier drinking, particularly among adults under age 60 (5, 6)
Physicians’ Health Study: 22,071 male physicians aged 40–84 11 years 30–35% reduced risk of angina and myocardial infarction, 20–30% reduced risk of cardiovascular death (7)
Kaiser Permanente cohort: 123,840 men and women aged 30+ 10 years 40% reduction in fatal myocardial infarction, 20% reduction in cardiovascular mortality; 80% increase in fatal hemorrhagic stroke (8)
Nurses’ Health Study: 85,709 female nurses aged 34–59 12 years 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality; an earlier report showed a 40% reduction in risk of CHD and 70% reduction in risk of ischemic stroke (9)

* compared with non-drinkers


1. Goldberg IJ, Mosca L, Piano MR, Fisher EA. AHA Science Advisory: Wine and your heart: a science advisory for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001; 103:472–5.

2. Lin Y, Kikuchi S, Tamakoshi A, et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among middle-aged and elderly Japanese men and women. Ann Epidemiol. 2005; 15:590-97.

3. Mukamal KJ, Conigrave KM, Mittleman MA, et al. Roles of drinking pattern and type of alcohol consumed in coronary heart disease in men. N Engl J Med. 2003; 348:109-18.

4. Renaud SC, Gueguen R, Siest G, Salamon R. Wine, beer, and mortality in middle-aged men from eastern France. Arch Intern Med. 1999; 159:1865-70.

5. Thun MJ, Peto R, Lopez AD, et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among middle-aged and elderly U.S. adults. N Engl J Med. 1997; 337:1705-14.

6. Camargo CA, Jr., Hennekens CH, Gaziano JM, Glynn RJ, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in US male physicians. Arch Intern Med. 1997; 157:79-85.

7. Camargo CA, Jr., Stampfer MJ, Glynn RJ, et al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and risk of peripheral arterial disease in US male physicians. Circulation. 1997; 95:577-80.

8. Klatsky AL, Armstrong MA, Friedman GD. Risk of cardiovascular mortality in alcohol drinkers, ex-drinkers and nondrinkers. Am J Cardiol. 1990; 66:1237-42.

9. Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Speizer FE, Hennekens CH. A prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of coronary disease and stroke in women. N Engl J Med. 1988; 319:267-73.

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