Cardiovascular disease

The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease (coronary artery disease and strokes) is complex.

In summary, low to moderate alcohol use (one to two drinks per day) can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (where the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, become narrowed or blocked, which leads to angina and heart attacks) and the risk of ischaemic stroke (stroke caused by blocked arteries in the brain).31

However, higher alcohol use increases the risk of coronary artery disease and ischaemic stroke.9 In addition, any alcohol use increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (stroke caused by bleeding arteries in the brain).9 Both single episodes of heavy alcohol use and chronic heavy use can also increase the risk of hypertension, developing irregular heartbeats and suffering sudden death from a cardiac cause.9,27,32,34

The benefit of alcohol in reducing heart disease is primarily for those at risk of heart disease – particularly older people and those with a family history of heart disease.36

Note that the evidence of the relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease is mixed and often controversial. This section is a brief summary of the evidence available at the time of publication.