Is Drinking Alcohol Really Good For Your Heart? Here's What The Science Says

For a long time, doctors thought a few drinks every now and then was acceptable and that moderate drinking might even be good for your health. But a study published by Jama Network in March challenges that theory and questions whether alcohol is good for you at all. 

The study's objective is to find out whether there was an increased risk of heart disease associated with habitual drinking. It covered the drinking behaviors of 371,463 participants and pre-defined what the different quantities of alcohol consumed meant. Abstainers did not drink at all, light drinkers had fewer than 8.4 units of alcohol per week, moderate drinkers had between 8.4 to 15.4 units of alcohol a week, and heavy drinkers had 15.4 to 24.5 units of alcohol a week. There is also a category of drinkers defined as "abusive," meaning those who drank more than 24.5 units of alcohol a week. 

All of the respondents were part of U.K. Biobank, a knowledge bank that gathers information on subjects whose genes and health conditions are being studied (per The New York Times).

Research shows an increased risk in heart disease with alcohol consumption

Instead of supporting the theory that moderate drinking is not a health risk, the findings reported from the study showed a "nonlinear, consistently risk-increasing association between all amounts of alcohol consumption and both hypertension and coronary artery disease." Put simply, it doesn't matter how much alcohol you drink, as the results show that any drinking at all increases the risk of heart disease. The findings shocked doctors such as cardiologist Stanley L. Hazen, who told The New York Times that the study "changed his life."

While some research does show that moderate drinkers have strong hearts, researchers say that has less to do with alcohol and more to do with the fact that both light and moderate drinkers lead healthy lifestyles. They tend to exercise more and eat better than those who drink heavily. "We have to start thinking about those moderate ranges and inform patients accordingly," Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist Krishna Aragam said, noting "If you are choosing to drink, you should know that beyond a certain level, the risk ramps up quite a bit."

Previous research, including that reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine, reflects these findings, especially because there is some evidence to show that red wine raises levels of good cholesterol. But aside from drinking a glass of wine a day for the benefits, you can simply exercise and eat more fruits and veggies.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).