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.
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:
- Weak pulses
- Postural hypotension
Read our Journal Does Hydration Impact Heart Health to learn more.
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.
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.
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