Stress Relief from Alcohol in Moderation Shows Heart Health Benefit

Alcohol in moderation is linked to reductions in stress that may benefit the heart, according to a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session (ACC.21). Investigators used the Mass General Brigham Biobank health care survey to identify 53,064 patients with self-reported alcohol intake data. Alcohol intake was classified as low (<1 drink per week), moderate (1–14 drinks per week), or high (>14 drinks per week). Stress was measured based on amygdala and frontal cortex activity—the parts of the brain associated with stress and executive function, respectively—based on brain scans from more than 700 patients. Major cardiovascular (CV) events occurred in 7,905 patients (15%), with major events occurring in 17% and 13% of patients with low and moderate alcohol intake, respectively. After adjustment, moderate consumption was associated with a 20% lower risk of major CV event and less stress-related brain activity compared with low consumption. This reduced risk was significant after controlling for demographics, CV risk factors, socioeconomic status, and psychological factors.