Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve heart health and reduce risk for cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. However, the association between heart failure—which occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should—and alcohol consumption is less clear. Too much alcohol has been linked to poorer outcomes while moderate drinking, defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men, may improve outcomes and quality of life.
According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, researchers analyzed data from a clinical trial that followed nearly 7,000 Italian patients with heart failure for roughly four years. In addition to tracking outcomes like hospitalization and death, researchers used questionnaires to assess patients’ dietary habits, quality of life and symptoms of depression. More than half of the patients reported drinking at least one glass of wine a day. Since so few subjects drank other types of alcoholic beverages, researchers limited their analysis to wine consumption only.
Interestingly, there was no significant difference between outcomes among wine drinkers versus non-drinkers. However, patients with moderate wine consumption had a better perception of health status and fewer symptoms of depression. Wine drinkers also had lower levels of inflammation, which is a known marker of heart disease and other heart conditions.
Although findings do not suggest that moderate wine consumption improves outcomes for heart failure patients, regular alcohol consumption may improve quality of life. Heart failure can cause debilitating symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath, which can worsen over time and take a toll on quality of life. For patients living with chronic heart failure, minimizing symptoms and improving quality of life is a major goal for treatment. Although experts don’t recommend that non-drinkers pick up the habit to improve their health, findings do support moderate wine consumption among heart failure patients that have not been advised against it for other health reasons.