Is Red Wine Really Heart Healthy?
We've all heard that wine is good for your heart. We've also heard that consuming alcohol is bad for your heart. Confused over this contradictory information? You’re not alone. Over the last decade, research has found both to be true — the difference comes down to what kind of alcohol, how much, how often, and your general state of health.
While there are some proven benefits of drinking red wine, there are more reasons why your heart will likely be healthier if you don’t drink, or if you follow the American Heart Association’s guidance of consuming no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women and two for men. One drink is defined as:
- 5 ounces of wine (preferably red)
- 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor
Why Alcohol May be Good for Your Heart
A body of research has found that alcohol, particularly a glass of red wine a day, can be good for your heart and might even lower the risk of dying from heart disease in some people. Studies have found that red wine and other alcohol in moderation might help prevent potential heart damage caused by ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and help slightly raise your level of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). But medical science has also shown that alcohol thins the blood and therefore can keep blood from clotting.
Current research is digging deeper into how wine specifically can help the heart, focusing on the role of antioxidants and resveratrol, a polyphenol compound — a category of chemicals found in plants, fruits and vegetables and wine (from grapes). Resveratrol is believed to act similarly to antioxidants in preventing damage to the body that can potentially increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions.
However, this doesn’t mean you should drink wine or other alcoholic drinks every day. The medical jury is still out on whether the alcohol itself is providing the benefit, or if it’s the healthier lifestyle habits often practiced by people who choose not to drink or to drink in moderation.
While there are some heart-healthy benefits to drinking red wine, there are also serious risks. For instance, drinking too much alcohol can increase triglycerides (fats in the blood that can cause LDL levels and cholesterol to increase) and lead to a variety of cardiovascular issues, including:
- High blood pressure
- Atrial fibrillation (an irregular or quivering heartbeat)
- Cardiac arrhythmia (a breakdown in the electric impulses that enable your heart to beat that can slow your heartbeat or make it beat too fast)
- Cardiomyopathy (a disease that causes enlargement of the heart’s muscles that can make them thicken or become rigid)
- Congestive heart failure (when your heart becomes too weak to pump blood due to high blood pressure or narrowing arteries)
- Heart attack or other cardiac event or infarction that causes sudden reduced supply of blood to the heart
The Bottom Line on Alcohol and Your Heart
If you already suffer from any of the above heart conditions or have a family history of heart disease or stroke, your doctor may advise you to limit or even avoid consuming alcohol. You may also be told to stop drinking if you’re taking certain medications that, when mixed with alcohol, can lead to potentially serious or even life-threatening complications.
Have questions about alcohol and your heart health? Talk to your primary care doctor. If you don’t have one, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you prevent and control cardiovascular disease. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »