Alcohol and heart disease
Drinking too much alcohol is one of the most common causes
of hospital admission in the UK.
And drinking more than the
recommended limits can have a harmful effect on the heart.
It can cause abnormal
heart rhythms, high blood
pressure, damage to the heart muscle and other
diseases such as stroke, liver problems and some
Alcohol is also high in calories so it can lead to weight gain.
If you are trying to lose weight, cut
down on alcohol.
How much can I drink?
If you drink alcohol, it is important to keep within the
- Men should not regularly drink more than
3 - 4 units of alcohol a day.
- Women should not regularly drink more
than 2 - 3 units of alcohol a day.
These guidelines apply whether you drink every day, once a week
or occasionally. If you drink too much, avoid alcohol for 48 hours
to allow your body time to recover.
How much is one unit of alcohol?
- One small glass (100mls) of wine.
10% alcohol by volume - be aware that many wines have a
higher alcohol content than this and the size of glasses
may be bigger.
- Half a pint (about 300mls) of normal strength lager, cider or
For example 3.5% - be aware that many beers and ciders have a
higher volume than this.
- A pub measure (25mls) of spirits.
Use our Alcohol Calculator
to figure out how many units you drink. You can also sign up to our
free service Heart Matters for more information on
alcohol and other ways to keep your heart healthy.
Is it true alcohol can be good for the heart?
Moderate drinking, that is 1 or 2 units a day,
may offer some protection from coronary heart
disease, especially in men over 40 and women who have been through
However, we would not advise you to
start drinking if you don't already. There are safer and
healthier ways to protect your heart. It is more important to
start taking more physical activity, eat
a healthy, balanced diet and to
Are any types of alcoholic drink more
There has been speculation in recent years about which type of
alcohol is most beneficial. There is evidence suggesting that red
wine may provide protection against coronary heart disease, but
these findings still need to be established in controlled
There is also some support for the speculation that drinking
with meals may be more beneficial.
Heart conditions and alcohol
I have recently been in hospital, when can I drink alcohol
If you’ve recently been unwell or in hospital with a
heart condition, or have undergone
heart surgery, you should ask
your doctor for advice on when you can resume
If you are taking sleeping tablets or
painkillers, remember that alcohol will have a more powerful
Everyone should avoid drinking too much
alcohol but this is particularly important if you are taking
anticoagulant medication like warfarin.
Too much alcohol can interfere with the blood
clotting process, so if you do drink alcohol it is better to have
just a small amount regularly. Your anticoagulant clinic will be
able to advise you on this.
I have a heart condition, is it safe for me to drink?
Once you have recovered, it's OK for most
people with a heart condition to drink a moderate amount of
However if you have been diagnosed with
certain conditions, such as some types of cardiomyopathy,
it may be advisable to avoid drinking alcohol
altogether. Check with your doctor for advice on whether it is
safe for you to drink alcohol and how much.
If you are taking medication, check with your
doctor or pharmacist about how much alcohol you can drink.