Heart & Vascular Program

Heart Health

Lifestyle: Alcohol

Moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most studies show that beer, wine and hard liquor have the same ability to decrease the risk of heart disease. Red wine may also contain antioxidants which may be protective, but you can get these antioxidants from eating bright coloured fruits and vegetables and whole grains. These foods also have other heart-protective nutrients, are lower in calories, and should be the eaten over alcohol to get heart health benefits.

If you do not drink alcohol, you do not have to start in order to reduce risk factors of heart disease. There are much more effective steps you can take, such as weight loss, diabetes control, limiting saturated fat in your diet and much more. Still, moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol has been proven to help.

If you have any of the following, you should avoid alcohol:

  • high triglycerides, as alcohol in wine, beer and spirits raises triglycerides
  • pregnancy
  • family history of breast cancer
  • prescribed medications that cannot be taken with alcohol (ask your pharmacist about this)
  • family history of alcoholism
  • uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • liver disease
  • alcohol induced cardiomyopathy (heart disease)

Alcohol is also high in calories. To lose weight you will need to reduce calories. Decreasing the amount of alcohol you drink will help with this.

What is a moderate amount of alcohol?

One bottle (350 millilitres/12 ounces) of beer (five per cent alcohol)
One glass (150 ml/five oz.) of wine (10-12 per cent alcohol)
One shot (45 ml/1.5 oz.) of liquor (40 per cent)
One serving (85 ml/three oz.) of fortified wine (sherry, port – 18 per cent alcohol)

Any benefits of moderate drinking are related to a consistent pattern of drinking, meaning no more than two standard drinks of alcohol per day, with a weekly maximum of 14 drinks for men and nine drinks for women. Binge drinking should be avoided.