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Research Summary

Effects of Exercise and Alcohol Intake on Cardiovascular Risk and Total Mortality

In an effort to determine the combined influence of leisure-time physical activity and alcohol intake on the risk of fatal ischemic heart disease (IHD), researchers conducted a prospective cohort study of 11,914 Danish men and women aged 20 or older at baseline and followed them for approximately 20 years. None of the subjects had a preexisting diagnosis of heart disease. Of the 5901 total deaths occurring over the study period, 1242 were attributed to IHD. Analyses were adjusted for alcohol consumption, physical activity, tobacco use, body mass index, education, and marital status.

  • For both genders, being physically active (low or moderate-to-high levels versus none) was associated with lower hazard ratios for both fatal IHD and all-cause mortality regardless of weekly alcohol consumption.
  • Alcohol intake was inversely associated with fatal IHD and had a U-shaped association with all-cause mortality.


Results from this large prospective study show that physical activity and all levels of alcohol consumption have independent inverse associations with fatal IHD risk. For all-cause mortality, at least some physical activity resulted in a lower risk, but heavier drinking (defined as 15+ drinks per week in this study) did not.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD


Pedersen JØ,  Heitmann BL, Schnohr P, et al. The combined influence of leisure-time physical activity and weekly alcohol intake on fatal ischaemic heart disease and all-cause mortality. Eur Heart J. 2008;29(2):204–212.