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Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to raised blood pressure, heart failure, heart attacks and stroke. 1 The risk is lower with light-to-moderate alcohol consumption but high with heavy alcohol consumption. 1 Heavy drinkers are also at double the risk of dying if they have a heart attack. 2

Drinking levels defined

Beer/Cider 1Wine 1Spirits 3
1 unit of alcohol350 ml150 ml25 ml
Generally, a standard drink contains 15 g of ethanol 1

Be aware that many alcoholic beverages may have higher alcohol contents and therefor may be more than 1 unit of alcohol at the above measurements. 3

Moderate alcohol consumption 2 drinks/day 1,2
< 14 drinks/week 4
1 drink/day 1,2
< 7 drinks/week 4
Binge drinking

A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0,08 g/dL 4

≥ 5 drinks in about 2 hours 4


≥ 4 drinks in about 2 hours 4


Excessive or “heavy” alcohol consumptionBinge drinking on ≥ 5 days/month 4Binge drinking on ≥ 5 days/month 4

Drinking tips

  • You should have several alcohol-free days each week 3
  • Avoid binge drinking – you can’t save up your units! 3
  • If you drink too much, avoid alcohol for 48 hours to allow your body time to recover 3
  • Keep track of how much you drink – know the standard drink size so that you can count your drinks accurately 5
  • Pace yourself – sip your drink slowly so that you have no more than ONE standard drink with alcohol per hour 5
  • Use drink “spacers” – have a glass of water or non-alcoholic beverage between each drink with alcohol 5
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach – this way the alcohol is absorbed into your body more slowly 5
  • Set goals– decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you will have on those days 5
  • Choose beverages with lower alcohol content

Effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the heart

  • Direct damage to the heart muscle 3,6
  • Increases blood pressure 3
  • Increases risk of abnormal heart rhythms 1,3
  • Increases oxidative stress, which can damage the heart and blood vessels 1
  • Weight gain leading to obesity, which is a risk for heart attacks and strokes 7

References: 1. Lucas DL, Brown RA, Wassef M, Giles TD. Alcohol and the Cardiovascular System: Research Challenges and Opportunities. J Am Coll Cardiol 2005;45(12):1916-1924. 2. Piepoli MF, Hoes AW, Agewall S, Albus C, Brotons C, Catapano AL, et al. 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice: The Sixth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice (constituted by representatives of 10 societies and by invited experts). Eur Heart J 2016;37:2315-2381. 3. British Heart Foundation. Alcohol. [Online] [cited 2018 Jan 24]. Available from: URL: 4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking Levels Defined. [Online] [cited 2018 Jan 12]. Available from: URL: 5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Rethinking drinking: Tips to try. [Online] [cited 2018 Jan 12]. Available from: URL:…/Tips-To-Try.aspx 6. Lindberg MW, Amsterdam EA. Alcohol, Wine, and Cardiovascular Health. Clin Cardiol 2008;31(8):347-351. 7. British Heart Foundation. Effects of alcohol on your heart. [Online] [cited 2018 Jan 24]. Available from: URL:…/effects-of-alcohol-on-your-heart

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