Is Drinking Red Wine Good for Your Heart?
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy for the long haul, most of the advice is easy to follow — or at least understand. At this point, we all get that the American Heart Association’s recommendations of eating nutritious foods, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and other lifestyle factors improve our odds of living heart-healthy well into our later years.
One area of heart health that has frequently caused confusion is drinking alcohol.
Over recent decades, researchers have gone back and forth between certain types of alcohol being heart-healthy to moderate amounts of alcohol being good for your heart, and alcohol not being good for your heart at all.
With all the varying information out there related to heart health and alcohol, it can get a little confusing.
Over the years, one beverage in particular has stood out as having a heart-healthy reputation: red wine.
This notion may have started due to observations that those who followed a Mediterranean diet, which included moderate red wine consumption, had lower levels of heart disease than those who did not. This led to further research into the heart-protective properties of red wine, which led researchers to an antioxidant in the wine known as resveratrol.
Resveratrol, which is naturally found in the skin of the grapes used for wine, appeared to have several heart-healthy properties, including preventing blood clots, reducing damage to blood vessels, and lowering levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
However, as further research has been conducted, the specific impact of resveratrol has come into question.
One strike against resveratrol came as researchers studied other moderate alcohol consumption, such as beer, whiskey or other spirits, and found similar cardioprotective benefits. For example, research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption of any type may:
- Prevent blood clots
- Improve the function of the blood vessel lining
- Prevent damage from “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
The benefits of alcohol, in general, were quite similar to what was observed with red wine. Researchers have posited that it may not be the red wine itself but the overall diets and lifestyles of red wine drinkers that may include healthier habits and, as a result, less risk of heart disease over time.
Recently, research has pointed even more aggressively away from recommending alcohol for its heart-healthy benefits.
An October 2023 article from the Harvard School of Public Health pointed out that, when you consider the high risks related to alcohol overall, no amount of alcohol consumption should be recommended for public health.
While the cardioprotective benefits of moderate alcohol consumption may be true, the dangers related to overconsumption far outweigh those potential benefits.
When moderate alcohol consumption becomes excessive alcohol consumption, then it’s really bad for the heart, says the American Heart Association. Over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and even heart failure in the long run.
Beyond the questionable health benefits of alcohol, of course, are the societal dangers that should also be considered. Among Americans ages 20 to 34, for example, one out of every four deaths can be linked to alcohol consumption. Even if you extend that age range to 20 to 64, alcohol is still responsible for one out of every eight deaths in the U.S., according to the JAMA Network.
Considering all the data, major health organizations have arrived at a practical approach to alcohol when it comes to your heart health:
- If you currently drink occasionally, do not exceed more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
- Do not rely on drinking “a glass of red wine a day” for heart-protective benefits. Most recent evidence does not point to red wine being any healthier for the heart than other types of alcohol.
- Do not start drinking to prevent heart disease. The risks outweigh the potential benefits.
- Do not drink if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a personal or family history of alcohol use disorder, are taking certain medications, or have certain medical conditions.
- If you have questions about alcohol use and heart health, talk to your health care provider.
It’s best to focus on steps to preserve your heart and cardiovascular system well into your years. Those include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products.
- Striving for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, with at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activity.
- Avoid smoking and lower fat and sodium intake.
- Maintaining a healthy weight through the steps mentioned above keeps both cholesterol and blood pressure at heart-healthy levels.
Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news service.
Medically reviewed by Ioannis S Chatzizisis, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and director of the Center for Digital Cardiovascular Innovations.
1) Lifestyle Changes to Prevent a Heart Attack, American Heart Association, 2023, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/life-after-a-heart-attack/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-attack-prevention
2) Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?, Mayo Clinic, 2023, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281#:~:text=Red%20wine%2C%20in%20limited%20amounts,attacks%20aren%27t%20well%20understood
3) Should red wine be removed from the Mediterranean diet?, Harvard School of Public Health, 2023, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/red-wine-mediterranean-diet/
4) Drinking red wine for heart health? Read this before you toast, American Heart Association, 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/05/24/drinking-red-wine-for-heart-health-read-this-before-you-toast
5) Estimated Deaths Attributable to Excessive Alcohol Use Among U.S. Adults Aged 20 to 64 Years, 2015 to 2019, JAMA Network, 2022, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2798004