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Research Summary

Moderate Drinking Lowers MI Risk in Men With Healthy Lifestyles

Some researchers suggest that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of myocardial infarction (MI) because of healthy lifestyle behaviors and not alcohol use. To assess this possibility, researchers examined MI, drinking, and healthy lifestyle factors in men—selected from the 51,529 participants of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study—who were free of cardiovascular disease, most cancers, and diabetes at study entry. Healthy lifestyle factors included a body mass index of <25; moderate-to-vigorous activity for >=30 minutes per day; abstinence from smoking; and a healthy diet.*

  • Regardless of drinking, men with more healthy lifestyle factors had much lower rates of MI during 16 years of follow-up.

Approximate Rates of MI per 100,000 Person Years

No. of Healthy
Lifestyle Factors
Nondrinkers Drinkers of About
1–2 Drinks/Day
0–1 575 400
4 275 100

  • Among 8867 men with all 4 healthy lifestyle factors (106 with MI), those who drank approximately one half to 2 drinks per day had a significantly lower MI risk than did nondrinkers (relative risks in fully adjusted analyses ranged from 0.3 to 0.5).


This study illustrates that rates of MI decrease markedly as the number of healthy lifestyle factors increases. Still, regardless of other factors, moderate alcohol use lowers rates further. These results tend to refute the hypothesis that the lower risk of coronary heart disease among moderate drinkers is due to their associated healthy lifestyle habits and not their alcohol consumption.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD
*Determined by a food questionnaire and healthy eating index; defined as an index score in the top 50% of participants


Mukamal KJ, Chiuve SE, Rimm EB. Alcohol consumption and risk for coronary heart disease in men with healthy lifestyles. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(19):2145–2150.