Questions and Answers about Alcohol and Your Heart
By Gretchen Benson, Registered Dietitian
Q. I've heard drinking alcohol can help my heart. Is this true?
A. Drinking a low to moderate amount of alcohol (no more than two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women) has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Researchers are still unclear about the exact benefits of alcohol (the antioxidant properties or anti-clotting properties of alcohol may be helpful), but the most well-known effect of alcohol is a slight increase in HDL (the "good" cholesterol).
While alcohol may have some heart health benefits, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages for these potential benefits, especially in people who do not already drink alcohol. Keep in mind; you can also increase your HDL cholesterol through regular physical activity.
Q. What health problems can drinking too much alcohol cause?
A. Too much alcohol can actually cause other health problems, such as high blood pressure or weight gain, which can increase your risk for heart disease. If you do drink, make sure you account for the calories in your beverage of choice and limit to no more than two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.
Q. How many calories are in one alcoholic drink?
A. Here are the calories for one drink of the different types of alcohol. You can see how extra calories can add up quickly!
Beverage "One drink" is: Calories
Wine 5 oz. 160
Light beer 12 oz. 100-110
Regular beer 12 oz. 150
(80-proof spirits) 1.5 oz. 100
Bottom line: The research is ongoing, but low to moderate consumption of alcohol may supplement a heart-healthy lifestyle. It's important to continue other heart-healthy behaviors, such as leading an active lifestyle, eating a healthy, balanced meal plan that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables