Alcohol Use and Older Adults

Frequently Asked Questions

7. Is drinking good or bad for your heart?

Drinking alcohol can affect the heart in good and bad ways. On one hand, studies in individuals younger than 65 have shown that moderate drinking -- up to two drinks a day for men and one drink for women -- can lower the chances of developing heart disease. On the other hand, heavy drinking -- either drinking a lot all at once or over time -- can damage the heart. Long-term alcohol use can also result in high blood pressure, which increases a person's risk of heart disease. However, blood pressure can go back to normal within a few months after drinking stops if there is not much damage to the heart.

The risks of drinking must be considered along with the potential benefits. For example, as little as one drink a day can slightly raise the risk of breast cancer in some women, especially those who are past menopause or who have a family history of breast cancer. Doctors do NOT recommend that people who don’t drink start drinking to improve their heart health.

Learn more about alcohol's effects on the heart.