Moderate levels of alcohol decrease heart failure risk in older individuals.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Aging
Professional Data: Aging


Between 2 and 3 million Americans are living with heart failure, and approximately 400,000 more will be diagnosed during this year.1 There are different types of this disorder, such as congestive, systolic, and diastolic heart failure. Heart failure can be caused by an underlying condition, such as heart disease or as a result of other factors that are known to increase the risk. Smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure greatly heighten an individual’s chances of heart failure. One of the greatest risk factors is a heavy consumption of alcohol and patients who have been diagnosed are usually instructed to either eliminate or decrease their intake of alcoholic beverages. Until now, however, little has been known about the relationship between moderate alcohol intake and heart failure.

A study published in the April issue of JAMA looked at the link between moderate consumption of alcohol and heart failure among the elderly. The participants consisted of a group of 2,235 older people (mean age of 73.3 years), that were free of heart failure, and who had not consumed more than 70 oz. of alcohol in the previous month. This large group of participants was divided into three smaller groups according to the amount of alcohol they had consumed the month before the study began. This represented those who had consumed no alcohol, those who had consumed 1 to 20 oz., and then those who had consumed 21 to 70 oz. At the conclusion of this 14-year study, the group that consumed 1 to 20 oz. had a 21% reduction in their risk of heart failure, and the group that consumed 21 to 70 oz., risk was reduced by 47%.

This finding led the authors to conclude that an increase in moderate alcohol intake was associated with a declining risk of heart failure in the elderly.2 Because of the serious nature of this condition, more research needs to be done in order for these findings to be declared conclusive.


1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Health. Update 2000.
2. Abramson JL, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure among older persons. JAMA. Apr 2001; 285(15):1971-7.