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Ask the Expert: Benefits of alcohol?

 ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Shereif H. Rezkalla, M.D.
Shereif H. Rezkalla, M.D.
Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic Centers in Marshfield ​and Wisconsin Rapids.

​Question: Is alcohol good or bad for you?​

I hear this question often, so I have researched the subject.

The short answer is that four to five alcoholic drinks per week can actually be beneficial to your cardiovascular system.

For those who can’t or do not wish to drink alcohol, some benefits may also be realized ​from drinking red grape juice.

On the other hand, heavy drinking, which we’ll define as more than three to four drinks per day, is a very bad idea for a number of health reasons. It is associated closely with higher death rates, high blood pressure, cancer and various heart conditions.

The optimal frequency to drink alcoholic beverages for health benefits is four drinks per week, spread out over the week and not consumed at the same time.

It doesn’t appear to matter whether one drinks beer, alcohol or wine, but some studies show a slightly higher benefit from red wine.

In that case, four to five half-glasses of red wine per week would provide the most benefit.

Nobody should exceed one drink per day.

Even people who have coronary artery disease, or narrowed blood vessels due to build-up of plaque, can benefit from modest amounts of alcohol. This is also true of patients with known congestive heart failure.

Remember that the amount of alcohol in a drink can vary substantially, and that terms such as light, moderate and heavy drinking have different meanings to different people.

In addition, every patient is different and may react differently to alcohol. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your personal physician.

Marshfield Clinic provides heart care​ in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location. ​​