Moderate Drinking and Cardiovascular Health


Sam Zakhari, Ph.D. , Division of Basic Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20892–7003.


Moderate alcohol consumption (1–2 drinks a day) can be beneficial in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. This article focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of moderate drinking, including increased plasma high-density lipoprotein levels, changes in cellular signaling, reduction in platelet function, stimulation of fibrinolysis, and reduction in ischemia-reperfusion injury. While moderate drinking may be protective against coronary artery disease for some individuals, populations such as pregnant women and individuals who are about to operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery should not drink alcoholic beverages. People with family histories of alcoholism should exercise extreme caution in their decision to drink.