Alcohol and Your Heart: The Good and the Bad

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You’ve heard that moderate drinking may be good for your heart. You’ve also heard for some people, drinking alcohol can be harmful to their hearts and lead to other health problems. So how should you approach drinking?

The Benefits

Research indicates moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women and two per day for men) may offer some health benefits:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease by raising levels of “good” cholesterol and helping to prevent artery damage caused by high “bad” cholesterol.
  • Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack.
  • Possibly reduce your risk of stroke and diabetes.
  • Lower your blood pressure.

The Dangers

Even moderate alcohol use isn’t risk-free. Avoid alcohol if:

  • You take medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • You’ve had a previous hemorrhagic stroke, heart failure, liver, or pancreatic disease.
  • You’re an alcoholic or have abused alcohol, such as engaging in binge drinking.
  • You’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
  • You’re going to drive.

The Recommendation

Alcohol and its relationship to heart disease, both good and bad, is a complex subject, and there is much we don’t know. The best advice is, if you drink, do so in moderation. If you don’t drink, don’t start if you’re doing so only because you think it will help your heart.

Heavy alcohol use has absolutely no health benefits. It can lead to serious health problems, including alcoholism, certain cancers, sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease, heart muscle damage, stroke, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and fetal alcohol syndrome in an unborn child. Accidents, suicide, and homicides are also attributed to heavy alcohol use.

Keep in mind that many of the benefits attributed to moderate drinking can be obtained by safer means, including diet and exercise. So as part of your regular medical care, talk to your doctor about alcohol use.

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Justin D. Roberts, DO

Justin D. Roberts, DO, is a cardiologist with The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health. Dr. Roberts’ areas of expertise include congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, congenital heart disease, and cardiomyopathy/heart muscle weakness.

Education: Medical School—Des Moines University; Residency and fellowship: Lehigh Valley Hospital Center.

Call: 717-544-8300

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.

 

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