Alcohol and Heart Disease

Alcohol is a sedative drug that depresses the central nervous system. Alcohol affects judgment, speech, and muscle coordination. In severe cases of intoxication, alcohol can shut down brain function to the point of death.

How Does Alcohol Cause Heart Disease?

Drinking too much alcohol constricts coronary arteries and causes elevated triglyceride levels. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, and can contribute to the development of obesity and diabetes. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart muscle damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, arrhythmias, stroke, and an increased risk for sudden cardiac death. In addition to heart disease, prolonged and excessive alcohol use causes pancreas disease, cancer, and liver damage.

Moderate Drinking
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol is unhealthy, but some research has suggested that people who drink a moderate amount of red wine are less likely to develop heart disease than people who do not drink alcohol. A moderate daily alcohol intake is 1 to 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women. The American Heart Association suggests that these benefits may also be gained from other foods, (including grape juice) and other lifestyle factors. Nondrinkers are not encouraged to start drinking to achieve these benefits because it is impossible to predict in which people alcoholism will become a problem.

One Drink

• 12 oz. beer
• 5 oz. wine
• 1.5 oz. 80-proof alcohol
• 1.0 oz. 100-proof alcohol


American Heart Association
Minneapolis Heart Foundation