Want to Protect Your Heart? Easy—No Heavy Drinking

man having heart pains

You’ve probably heard or read many times that alcohol is supposed to have health benefits. At the same time, you undoubtedly know that many people have lost their health to overconsumption of alcohol. So where can the lines of benefit or harm be drawn? A new study helps us come to the right conclusions. Just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this new study proves that anyone thinking that if a little alcohol is good, more alcohol is better is only doing himself—and his heart—harm.

The study reveals a connection between heart attacks and other cardiac problems and alcohol consumption, even when those people suffering problems don’t have any family history of heart disease or known risk factors.

In fact, alcohol abuse—excessive drinking—was associated with a 40% higher risk of heart attack, a two-fold greater risk of atrial fibrillation (an irregular and dangerous change in heartbeat) and a more than two-fold greater risk of congestive heart failure.

What If No One Abused Alcohol?

How many people would benefit if they refrained from abusing alcohol?

  • 73,000 fewer people would suffer from atrial fibrillation
  • There would be 34,000 fewer heart attacks
  • 91,000 fewer people would experience congestive heart failure.

    So how much alcohol is too much? The exact limits of light, moderate or heavy drinking are a little hazy, but a survey of doctors produced this scale:

    • Light drinking: 1.2 drinks per day
    • Moderate drinking: 2.2 drinks
    • Heavy drinking: 3.5 drinks
    • Abusive drinking: 5.4

      A drink, for this purpose, is equal to one beer, one five-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or cognac.

      Were Those Studies Showing Benefits Flawed?

      Not everyone agrees that the early studies claiming health benefits of alcohol were accurate. Many studies endeavoring to replicate the original benefits or meetings promoting these benefits have had ties to the alcohol industry. For example, one California doctor published a study that found that those who drank in moderation were less likely to be hospitalized for heart attacks. He later received research grants from an alcohol industry foundation.

      A scientist from the Centers for Disease Control reviewed the original studies that have been used to support messages about the supposed health benefits of moderating drinking. He concluded that abstainers and moderate drinkers were so different in many aspects of their health-related lives that they could not be compared. He referred to making a direct comparison of them was like comparing “apples and oranges,” and that advising the abstainers to drink would not move them into a healthier group. The American Heart Association agrees with this idea, and advises abstainers not to start drinking as a way of improving their health.

      What if a Person Can’t Control his Drinking?

      The California doctor mentioned above was clear on this point: Any person who can’t stop at one or two drinks a day should not drink at all. The same with those who suffer from liver disease.

      A person who can’t stop drinking until he is drunk needs help to achieve not only sobriety, but protection from the severe health conditions an alcohol abuser is subject to. Excessive alcohol consumption is not only hard on the heart, it is known to cause several types of cancer, including esophageal, liver, breast (for women) and colorectal cancers plus cancers of the head and neck.

      At Narconon Ojai, we help a person who has lost control of his drinking to get that control back again. The rehabilitation program at Narconon Ojai helps each person recover clear thinking and a brighter outlook with a thorough, nutritionally-supported detoxification step, and then strengthens life skills to help prevent relapse. Call today to learn how the rehab program at Narconon Ojai can help someone you care about start on the road to an alcohol-free future.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.