Wine May Boost Heart Attack Survival

Alcohol linked to lower mortality before or after heart attack for some but can harm others

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Men who drink moderately before or after experiencing a heart attack appear more likely to survive. Heavy drinkers do not receive the added heart benefit.

There were no significant differences in benefits between beer, wine or liquor.

Though a benefit was found following an initial heart attack, individuals should use caution in alcohol consumption and increasing usage to receive a benefit is not recommended.

"Try adding a glass of wine to an evening meal."

Jennifer Pai, research associate in the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and lead researcher, found a significant reduction in death from any reason among men who drank moderately. Moderate drinking was defined as two to three drinks a day.

During the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers followed 51,529 U.S. men who worked in health professions. The men were followed between 1986 and 2006. Of those men, 1,818 suffered a non-fatal heart attack. Among those who survived, 468 died during the 20-year follow up period.

Every four years researchers collected reports regarding alcohol consumption. The amount they drank was then calculated prior to and immediately after a heart attack.

In comparison with men who did not drink, light drinking, about one drink a day, and moderate drinking was associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any cause.

Light drinkers were 22 percent less likely to die after a heart attack, while moderate drinkers were 34 percent less likely to die after a heart attack. Heavy drinkers did not have a reduced mortality rate. In addition, moderate alcohol consumption was linked to an increased risk of death in men with certain types of heart attacks or heart failure.

Most participants reported drinking similar amounts before and after having a heart attack, researchers noted, though heavy drinkers tended to reduce consumption after a heart attack, but most did not quit drinking entirely. Few non-drinkers began to drink following a heart attack.

There were no significant differences among the type of alcoholic beverages consumed, though lower hazard rates were seen for beer and liquor.

Investigators suggest that alcohol may have short-term effects in reducing cardiovascular disease. They suggested a U-shaped association that may be strongest among men who survive heart attacks with less impaired heart function. Researchers said the topic will require additional research.

The study was recently published in the European Heart Journal.

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Review Date: 
April 15, 2012
Last Updated:
April 18, 2012