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Cheers to Your Heart: Study Finds Lowering Alcohol Intake Can Cut Cardiovascular Risks

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 29, 2024

A new investigation from South Korea shows promising evidence that reducing alcohol intake can significantly decrease the risk of major cardiovascular events (MACEs), particularly in heavy drinkers. This research echoes the growing consensus that even slight behavioral changes can lead to substantial health benefits.

A team led by Dong Oh Kang, MD, PhD, and Jin-Man Jung, MD, PhD, conducted this cohort study using data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening (NHIS-HEALS) database. The study encompassed a total of 21,011 heavy drinkers, with follow-up assessments averaging over seven years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cutting down on alcohol among heavy drinkers is linked with a 23% reduction in the risk of MACEs, compared with those who continued heavy drinking.
  • The most significant reduction was observed in cases of angina and ischemic stroke.

This study's strength lies in its large, nationally representative cohort and the in-depth analysis, spanning over a decade, of Korean adults' drinking habits and health outcomes. Though the findings are based on self-reported alcohol consumption, the substantial sample size and rigorous analysis suggest these insights are robust and applicable to the general population.

The results also underscore a consistent benefit across various types of cardiovascular events. For example, participants who reduced their drinking saw a remarkable 30% decreased risk in angina incidence and a 34% reduction in ischemic stroke risk. Notably, such preventative effects weren't as pronounced for nonfatal myocardial infarction or hemorrhagic stroke.

Despite the study's limitations, including self-reported data and a focus on a South Korean cohort that may not reflect global demographics, its findings offer a critical perspective on the long-term cardiovascular benefits of alcohol moderation.

Clinicians and public health initiatives could leverage these insights to develop targeted interventions and provide personalized advice to encourage reduced alcohol consumption, particularly for heavy drinkers at risk of heart-related issues.

The study suggests a promising strategy for mitigating the risk of severe heart conditions through relatively modest shifts in lifestyle choices.

This comprehensive research was published on March 28, 2024, in JAMA Network Open, under the title "Reduced Alcohol Consumption and Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events Among Individuals With Previously High Alcohol Consumption." It is openly accessible under the CC-BY License, suggesting that such findings are meant to be shared broadly for the betterment of public health.

To learn more and dive into the details, read the full study here: doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.4013.

This article was crafted with the support of Buoy Health.


Kang, D. O., Lee, D.-I., Roh, S.-Y., Na, J. O., Choi, C. U., Kim, J. W., Kim, E. J., Rha, S.-W., Park, C. G., Kim, Y.-S., Kim, Y., You, H.-S., Kang, H.-T., Jo, E., Kim, J., Lee, J.-w., & Jung, J.-M. (2024). Reduced Alcohol Consumption and Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events Among Individuals With Previously High Alcohol Consumption. JAMA Network Open, 7(3), e244013.