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Oct 19, 2017

Moderate Drinking Lowers Risk of Heart Failure

An Italian study links up to two glasses of wine a day to reduced risk for heart failure.

Consuming up to two glasses of wine a day helps protect against heart failure, based on a recent study conducted in the Molise region of Italy.

Published in the Journal of Congestive Heart Failure, this study looked at the association between alcohol consumption and two common heart conditions—heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

Heart failure is a common condition that occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AFib, is a common type of irregular heart rhythm that affects as many as 6.1 million Americans. Heavy alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for both of these chronic conditions. However, recent studies suggest moderate drinking—defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men—may actually reduce risk for heart failure and AFib.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the MOLI-SANI study, which explored both genetic and environmental risk factors for heart disease. It was conducted from 2005–2010 in the Molise region located between central and southern Italy.

The study included 22,824 adults, all of which completed detailed questionnaires about their health, lifestyle and diet. Participants were 35 years or older and were free of heart failure and AFib at the start of the study. Researchers followed participants for an average of 8 years, tracking key outcomes like heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

By the end of the study period, 943 adults had developed heart failure and 554 were diagnosed with AFib.

After analyzing outcomes and drinking habits, researchers found that consuming 14 drinks a day was associated with significantly lower risk of heart failure compared to not drinking. Adults drinking just under two drinks a day had the greatest benefit, with a 22% lower risk of heart failure than those who never consumed alcohol.

However, researchers note that they found no association between moderate alcohol consumption and risk for atrial fibrillation. As authors explain, this may be in part due to such a low number of participants developing AFib during the study period.

Findings add to a growing body of evidence around the cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. However, it’s important to note that findings can only be applied to areas that follow the Mediterranean diet, where the drink of choice is usually wine. While this study found that up to 4 drinks a day may reduce risk for heart failure, current guidelines still advise consuming no more than 1 drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is atrial fibrillation?

  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm caused by abnormal, chaotic electrical impulses in the heart’s upper chambers, the atria. These electrical impulses, which interfere with the heart’s natural pacemaker, fire so rapidly the atria cannot beat with a regular rhythm or squeeze out blood effectively. Instead, they merely quiver while the ventricles, the heart’s lower chambers, beat rapidly.
  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.

Featured Video

Among some of the benefits of drinking a modest amount of alcohol are decreased risk of heart attack, decreased risk of ischemic stroke, decreased risk of blood clotting, and increased levels of good cholesterol.

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Infographic: Heart Failure

Infographic: AFib