A glass of wine after work, a few drinks while you watch the game — what is the impact of alcohol consumption on heart health?
At first glance, research may appear mixed on whether alcohol helps or harms heart health. But there are common threads that researchers and doctors agree on: Excessive alcohol consumption is never a good idea, and if moderate alcohol consumption offers any benefits to heart health, those benefits are offset or outweighed by other, corresponding health risks.
“Everything in moderation,” says Allison DeVaux, a certified nurse practitioner at Tidelands Health Cardiology at Murrells Inlet.
If you don't drink, don't start
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age choose not to drink or drink in moderation, which means an average of two drinks or less per day for men and one drink per day for women. A drink means 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
DeVaux stresses the health benefits from drinking alcohol are slim to none. If you don’t drink, don’t start in an effort to improve your health.
“A lot of people think that red wine is heart healthy,” she says. “That’s a misconception.”
There has not been a study that definitively proves drinking red wine has health benefits, according to the American Heart Association. Any perceived benefits — like an increase in good cholesterol levels or potential reduction of heart disease — could be achieved by exercising and eating healthy.
The Heart Association’s position is supported by a major global study that examined the health effects of alcohol consumption on people in 195 countries over a 26-year period. The study found alcohol may reduce heart disease risk, but any potential benefit was outweighed by increased risks for cancer and other diseases.
“Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none,” the report states.
Risks of heavy drinking
People who drink excessively or those with pre-existing heart conditions have to be particularly careful, DeVaux says.
Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke, among other issues. Patients who already have cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation or hypertension should avoid alcohol.
Otherwise, for most people, a drink every now and then will have little or no negative impact on long-term health, DeVaux says, but it won’t help, either.
Nurse Practitioner, Tidelands Health Cardiology
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Allison DeVaux is a certified nurse practitioner who provides care at Tidelands Health Cardiology at Murrells Inlet. She is accepting new patients.Learn More
Western Governor’s University Chamberlain University, College of Nursing and Public Health
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Allison DeVaux is a certified nurse practitioner who provides care at Tidelands Health Cardiology at Murrells Inlet. She is accepting new patients.