It’s well established that heavy drinking can lead to heart failure, heart disease and other serious health problems. However, less is known about the effect of moderate drinking on heart failure risk. Many studies suggest that moderate drinking, categorized as up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, could actually reduce risk of heart disease, but the relationship between moderate drinking and heart failure risk remains controversial.
According to a study published in the European Heart Journal, researchers have learned more by analyzing data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, which began in 1987 to investigate the causes of heart disease in four large U.S. communities. More than 14,000 middle-aged participants were included in analysis, all of whom were free of heart failure at the start of the study. Participants provided information about their alcohol consumption upon enrollment into the study and were followed for an average of 24 years.
Overall, most participants were non-drinkers or former drinkers, while one-quarter reported up to seven drinks a week. Eight percent of participants drank 7-14 drinks a day, and 3% reported heavy drinking. After analysis, researchers found that consuming up to seven drinks a week reduced heart failure risk by 20% in men and 16% in women.
Based on findings, authors conclude that moderate drinking may reduce risk of heart failure in middle-aged adults. However, it’s possible that moderate drinking is more protective in men compared to women. It’s also important to note that moderate alcohol consumption in this study was defined as seven drinks per week for men, yet moderate drinking for men is typically defined as up to 14 drinks a week. Therefore, study findings only support consumption of one drink a day to reduce risk of heart failure in both men and women.