Is alcohol good for the heart?
Why the health risks from drinking alcohol outweigh any possible benefits.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of various types of heart disease, including coronary heart disease which can result in serious and life-threatening conditions such as angina, heart failure and heart attack.
Cutting back on the total amount of alcohol you drink and taking more drink-free days each week, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
There is some evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption can be protective against coronary heart disease, but only in a specific section of the population - women over 50 years of age.
This protective effect is only seen with low levels of alcohol consumption (not more than one unit a day) and it does not appear to be dependent on the type of alcoholic drink.1 At all levels of alcohol consumption above one unit a day the protective effect disappears and there is an increased risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women.
However, even low-level drinking increases the risks of other very serious illnesses including other types of heart disease, several types of cancer, brain damage, pancreatitis and alcohol-related liver disease.
The safest level of drinking is to drink no alcohol at all.2,3
So the evidence of the small benefit to heart health certainly does not justify drinking alcohol to protect your heart. Even for women over 50, the other risks of harm from alcohol far outweigh any small benefit. And there are much better ways to reduce your risk of heart disease– including stopping smoking, being more physically active, staying at a healthy weight and eating a healthier diet -all of which are much better for your overall health.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, stay within the UK Chief Medical Officers' low risk drinking guidelines of not more than 14 units a week for men and women, spread across the week and include at least three drink-free days every week.
Arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
 Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Collaborators. (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet, 392(10152),1015-1035.
 Haseeb, S., Alexander, B., andBaranchuk, A. (2017). Wine and cardiovascular health: A comprehensive review. Circulation. 136, 1434–1448.
 Chiva-Blanch, G. and Badimon, L. (2020). Benefits and Risks of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Disease: Current Findings and Controversies. Nutrients, 12(1), 108.
Last Reviewed: 8th March 2021
Next Review due: 8th March 2024