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Cheers to Your Heart: Cutting Back on Alcohol Could Slash Your Risk of Major Heart Events!

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 29, 2024

Major Study Finds Cutting Back on Heavy Drinking Can Significantly Reduce Risk of Heart-Related Illnesses

A groundbreaking study has unveiled a striking connection between the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk of suffering from major heart conditions, showcasing that individuals who are heavy drinkers can widely benefit from reducing their alcohol intake.

The in-depth research analyzed data collected from adults in South Korea enrolled in the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening (NHIS-HEALS) program. The focus was on 21,011 participants who at the start of the study self-identified as heavy drinkers, defined as consuming more than four drinks per day or more than fourteen drinks per week for men, and more than three drinks per day or more than seven drinks per week for women. Researchers tracked these individuals over a period to observe the impact of decreased alcohol consumption on the occurrence of significant adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs) such as non-fatal heart attacks, angina requiring surgical intervention, strokes necessitating hospitalization, and all causes of death.

The results are telling. Over the follow-up period, the study found a clear divide: those who continued heavy drinking had a markedly higher incidence of major heart issues compared to those who reduced their drinking. Specifically, those who scaled back on alcohol had a 23% lesser risk of experiencing such events. When broken down further, the benefits of less drinking were most notable in two areas. There was a 30% reduction in the incidence of angina, which is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, and a 34% reduction in the likelihood of ischemic strokes, which occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked.

Remarkably, the advantages of cutting back on alcohol were consistent across various participant subgroups, indicating that this could be a universally beneficial change for heavy drinkers. The study's authors believe that these findings provide solid proof for health professionals who often face questions about the heart health benefits of altering drinking habits. For heavy drinkers grappling with cardiovascular disease risks, this research underscores a potentially lifesaving lifestyle adjustment.

Prior research has suggested that moderate alcohol consumption might offer some protection against cardiovascular disease. However, the data has not been uniform across different types of heart diseases, and often these studies do not account for changes in drinking habits over time. This new research takes a different approach by considering the dynamic nature of alcohol consumption and focusing on individuals with a history of heavy drinking.

It's important to note that while the reduction in alcohol consumption showed significant health benefits, the researchers emphasized the need for further studies to fully unravel the complexities of alcohol's impact on the heart. For now, the evidence suggests that, especially for heavy drinkers, scaling back can lead to better cardiovascular health outcomes.

In summarizing the main findings, the study concludes that for heavy drinkers, reducing alcohol intake has the potential to lower the risk of future cardiovascular-related health issues, particularly concerning angina and ischemic strokes. The health implications of these findings could be far-reaching, potentially informing public health recommendations and influencing personal lifestyle choices for better heart health.

The study was meticulously conducted and its findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, signaling a high level of credibility in the medical community. This open-access article may serve as a key source of information for those looking to make informed decisions about their drinking habits and cardiovascular health risks.

As of now, this is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies affirming the cardiovascular benefits of reducing alcohol consumption among people with a history of heavy drinking. It is expected to shape future public health strategies, guiding heavy drinkers towards a path of reduced alcohol consumption to improve their heart health and overall well-being.


Kang DO, Lee D, Roh S, et al. Reduced Alcohol Consumption and Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events Among Individuals With Previously High Alcohol Consumption. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(3):e244013. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.4013