Can people with heart problems drink alcohol?

February 14, 2024 | 07:25 pm PT
I'm 42 years old and have had high blood pressure for the past two years. Is it safe for me to drink alcohol? What is my safe amount of alcohol intake? (Minh Thanh, Long An)


Research has shown that moderate consumption of red wine, defined as around two glasses for men and one glass for women per day, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease compared to non-drinkers.

Red wine, fermented from grapes, is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, which can help improve levels of HDL cholesterol, commonly known as "good" cholesterol. Consequently, this beverage can play a role in preventing atherosclerosis, a leading cause of various health issues such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart attacks.

However, the benefits observed in these studies may not be attributed solely to red wine. Other lifestyle factors, including increased physical activity, adherence to a healthy diet, and stress reduction, also contribute to cardiovascular health improvement. Therefore, doctors do not recommend relying on red wine as a preventive measure against heart disease.

For people with heart conditions like yours, it is advised to either avoid or limit alcohol intake to recommended levels, which are fewer than two alcohol units per day for men. Excessive drinking can elevate heart rate, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease. One alcohol unit is equivalent to 330 ml of beer, 135 ml of wine, or 30 ml of spirits.

A group of people holding wine glasses. Photo illustration by Freepik

A group of people holding wine glasses. Photo illustration by Freepik

To minimize alcohol's negative effects, consider the following:

Avoid drinking on an empty stomach to prevent irritation of the stomach lining, which can lead to gastritis, ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Have a light meal before drinking to slow alcohol absorption, incorporating vegetables, soups, smoothies, and fruit juices.

While consuming alcohol, eating protein-rich foods like eggs, chicken, fish, legumes, and shrimp can slow the alcohol's entry into the bloodstream.

Drink spirits slowly and dilute them with water or ice to lessen oral and gastric irritation and allow the liver ample time to metabolize alcohol, reducing the risk of intoxication.

Avoid mixing alcohol with carbonated beverages, such as sodas or energy drinks, as they can hasten alcohol absorption into your bloodstream.

Be aware that certain alcoholic beverages may contain ingredients that interact with heart disease medications, potentially diminishing their effectiveness and causing serious side effects. It's important to consult your doctor about the types of alcohol you plan to consume to ensure they won't adversely affect your condition.

Dr. Huynh Thang Kieu

Tam Anh General Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City

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