Wine and heart health

Alternative names
Health and wine


There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. More studies are being done on the possible benefits wine (particularly red wine) may have on heart disease. However, it is a very controversial topic.

There is some evidence from population based studies that people who drink moderately may be less likely to develop heart disease than nondrinkers. However, drinking alcohol has been linked to high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, physical abuse, obesity, heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms), pancreatitis, and liver disease. In addition, although some studies suggest that alcohol may raise HDL (the good kind of cholesterol), it also raises triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).

The American Heart Association and other experts emphasize that there are much more effective ways to prevent heart disease including:

  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol  
  • Exercising and following a low-fat, healthy diet  
  • Not smoking  
  • Maintaining a normal weight

These tried and true methods have much more scientific proof than drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, the benefits suggested by some of the studies on alcohol are likely due to other factors like antioxidants found in red wine called flavonoids (which are also found in other foods such as grapes and red grape juice), more physical activity in countries that drink wine regularly, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables. There is also a substance in alcohol known as resveratrol which may reduce blood clot formation. However, taking aspirin in accordance with your doctor’s instructions is a more standard method for lowering your chances of developing a blood clot if you are at risk for heart disease or stroke. Note: you should NOT drink alcohol if you take aspirin regularly.

Women who drink should limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day, men to no more than two drinks per day. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 oz. of liquor of 80-proof spirits. It is important to know, however, that even light drinking can lead to addiction. Pregnant women need to avoid alcohol consumption altogether because it can cause serious birth defects.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, M.D.

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