Does a Drink a Day Help You Prevent Heart Failure?
Could a little bit of alcohol prevent heart failure? Our experts discuss the evidence.
It’s not the first time we have heard that drinking a little alcohol may have health benefits. But a recent study published in the European Heart Journal has reignited the discussion.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Over two decades, researchers studied the heart health of more than 14,000 adults, ages 45 to 64. Study participants were categorized by their alcohol consumption:
(One drink was equal to a 12-ounce can of beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor.)
Participants that had the lowest rate of heart failure during the study were those that reported consuming up to seven alcoholic drinks per week. Researchers found that men’s risk was 20 percent lower and women’s was 16 percent lower than those who abstained from alcohol.
So, can we conclude that a drink a day is good for you?
Maybe, maybe not, says cardiologist David Taylor, MD. While the results are encouraging, the study raises more questions. For example:
“This study was merely observational,” says Dr. Taylor. “Patients who abstained from drinking alcohol weren’t randomly assigned to be abstainers and those who did drink weren’t assigned how many drinks to have. The only way to find some of the unknowns is to randomly assign participants to categories and then control everything else.”
The study’s findings were in line, reporting that the heaviest drinkers (who consumed more than 21 drinks per week) had the highest risk of mortality — from any cause.
As for the rest of the findings, take them with a grain of salt, advises Dr. Taylor.
“The study suggests that if you’re healthy, between 45 and 64, and regularly have a drink at dinner or otherwise drink moderately, you won’t have a higher risk for heart failure — and you may even be a little better off,” says Dr. Taylor.