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Research Summary

Light Alcohol Consumption Prior to and Following Myocardial Infarction Is Associated with Lower Risk of Mortality

This study examined the association between long-term alcohol consumption, consumption before and after myocardial infarction (MI), and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). Of the >51,000 men in the study, 1818 experienced incident nonfatal MI during ≥20 years of follow-up. Among MI survivors, 468 died during follow-up. Reports of alcohol consumption were obtained throughout the course of the study and were used to calculate average consumption prior to and following MI.

  • Overall, compared with no alcohol consumption, pre-MI and post-MI intake of very light* to light** amounts of alcohol was associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular morality.
  • The reductions in all-cause mortality risk (22% lower among those consuming very light amounts and 34% lower among those consuming light amounts, compared with nondrinkers) were no longer present in men who consumed ≥30 g per day. For this highest consumption group, the adjusted hazard ratio was 0.87 (95% CI, 0.61–1.25).
*Very light drinking = 0.1–9.9 g per day of alcohol (<1 standard drink) in this study, while **light drinking = 10.0–29.9 g per day (2–2½ standard drinks).


Interestingly, although alcohol exposure may differ before and after a cardiovascular event, in this study the reductions in risk were almost the same; i.e., both prior to an MI and after a nonfatal MI, the risk of mortality was about 30% lower for light drinkers than it was for abstainers. This suggests that, in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease, alcohol may have relatively short-term effects. Regular consumption of light amounts may result in the best health outcomes. R. Curtis Ellison, MD


Pai JK, Mukamal KJ, Rimm EB. Long-term alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among survivors of myocardial infarction: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Eur Heart J. March 27, 2012 [Epub ahead of print]. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehs047