The Relationship Between Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health

cardiogram Heart Health

Alcohol and heart health? Yes, the two are connected. While certain drinks, like wine (in moderation), can be beneficial for heart health, too much can lead to cardiovascular complications. Let’s dive in… 
How does alcohol impact my heart? 

Like many things, the impact alcohol has on heart health is a mixed bag. And, to no surprise, the greatest factors to consider when looking at its effects is the amount and frequency of consumption.1 

 For instance, moderate drinking on occasion will typically have a far lesser impact on your heart health than heavy drinking.1 That’s because it’s much easier for the heart to manage in small doses. And when there’s a big influx of alcohol in your system, be it from the holidays or other special occasions, it can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. 

In fact, over-consumption can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), arrythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), particularly atrial fibrillation (afib), and other cardiovascular diseases.2 And, if continued, the stress that over-indulgence puts on your heart can even lead to stroke or heart failure. 

More ways alcohol can affect the heart 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration. Maintaining proper hydration is important for keeping the heart healthy, and dehydration can lead to cardiovascular complications. For instance, cardiac symptoms of dehydration include: 

  • Tachycardia 
  • Weak pulses 
  • Postural hypotension 

Read our Journal Does Hydration Impact Heart Health to learn more. 

Disrupted Sleep 

While alcohol can initially have a sedative effect, helping to lull us into sleep, this effect wears off after a couple hours, and winds up negatively impacting our sleep. This includes more frequent waking, less deep sleep, and overall sleep disruption, all of which can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular wellness. 

To understand how sleep affects your heart, read our Journal How Sleep Affects Your Heart Health. 

Added Stress
Alcohol is a depressant and affects the central nervous system, which can lead to greater amounts of stress. It’s actually been shown that heavy drinking, especially when it becomes a sustained habit, can also alter your brain chemistry, triggering the release of greater amounts of cortisol, affecting stress levels and your overall ability to cope with stress.4
How much alcohol is considered too much? 

In the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is considered 2 or less alcoholic beverages for men, and one or less for women.5 And, if alcohol is to be consumed, this is the recommended amount to lower associated health risks.5  

However, some studies indicate that drinking no alcohol at all is best for optimal health.1 And of course, it’s always important to understand if alcohol consumption should be completely avoided due to certain medical condition or medications. 

Is red wine really good for heart health? 

Rumor has it that certain alcoholic beverages, like red wine, can actually be beneficial for heart health. And in fact, certain studies have shown that this could be the case, and that red wine could even have benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease. 

This is because red wine contains antioxidants (known as polyphenols) that can help to protect the lining of our heart’s blood vessels.6 Certain studies have also shown that red wine can also raise HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”), helping to prevent artery damage.6 

Use Cardiogram to see how your heart responds to alcohol 
If you drink alcohol, use your Cardiogram app to better understand how it impacts your heart’s rhythm and patterns. 

Tagging Symptoms

To do so, create a Tag anytime you consume alcohol. With regular tagging, you’ll be able to look back on your tag history and see if you notice trends in the way your heart responds to alcohol. Be sure to take notes of your mood, symptoms, and now much alcohol was consumed to really see the bigger picture. 


Cardiogram app shown on phone and smart watch


Cardiogram app shown on phone and smart watch