Men who drink two alcoholic beverages a day after their first heart attack are less likely to die than both heavy and non-drinkers. These findings, from Harvard University, point to the potential beneficial effects of moderate drinking for heart attack survivors. Most of the men in the study did not change how much or frequently they drank, even after a heart attack, so men who saw a benefit were already moderate drinkers. The study was published in the European Heart Journal, and followed 1,818 men who had survived a heart attack. Every four years, for up to 20 years, researchers asked them about their diet and alcohol use. In the study, moderate drinking was defined as two drinks a day. Moderate drinkers who continued drinking in the same way had a 14% lower risk of death from any cause, and a 42% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, when compared to non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers had a similar risk of death as those who abstained. Researchers suspect that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to heart attack survivors for several reasons. It may increase the levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the body, or make the blood less likely to clot. All of these can reduce the risk of a subsequent heart attack. The researchers stressed men shouldn’t start drinking—or drink more—after a heart attack. Alcohol can damage the brain, liver, and heart. If you are already a moderate drinker, however, there’s no reason to stop. If in doubt, talk with your doctor.
The risk of death is cut for men who continue to drink moderately.