The Stress and Alcohol Relationship

stress and alcohol connection

There is a new study out that was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Scientific Session.1  It suggests that moderate drinking is associated with a lower heart disease risk by making a connection between stress and alcohol.  The definition for drinking in this study is  less than or equal to one drink per day for women.  Two for men.  The comparison was with two other groups of people.  One that did not drink at all and another that drank ‘excessively.’

The health benefits of alcohol consumption

Participant average age is 57.2 and uses a database of 53,064 individuals.  Each person fits into a group of low, moderate or high alcohol consumption.  The group they were assigned to was based on self-reported data.  Researchers looked at this data and determined the incidence of heart attack and stroke based on the coding of the medical records.  In addition, brain activity associated with stress were recorded.

What they found is that the self-identified ‘moderate drinkers’ had 20% fewer incidents of major heart ‘events’ than ‘low drinkers.’  In addition, moderate drinkers also showed a lower level of stress based on brain activity.  This means that, at least according to the study, people that drink moderately have less chance of dying (at least from a heart attack or stroke).  But that isn’t all.  They experience less stress than even those that DON’T drink at all!

Stress and alcohol reduction

There is a potential connection here as it is clear that stress and heart health are related.2  We already know this.  Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that those with lower stress would experience fewer cardiac incidents.     In addition, stress in those that do not drink at all and in heavy drinkers was also higher than in moderate drinkers.  The conclusion seems to be that moderate drinking might be the most healthful.  After all, it reduces stress more so than not drinking or doing so heavily.

Caution: mixing stress and alcohol

The study does suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce stress more than not drinking or drinking too much and therefore improve heart health.  Nonetheless, one should be cautious about using alcohol for this purpose.  After all, alcohol use at any level can be harmful.3  For instance, while moderate drinking might reduce stress and strengthen your heart, it is also known to increase cancer risk and addiction.4  In other words, if you don’t already drink, don’t start!  If your intake is low, don’t increase it and lastly, if you drink heavily, at least become a moderate drinker.

There are better ways to reduce stress

Drinking alcohol is certainly not the best way to reduce stress and arguably a poor choice.  We know, for instance, that exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding saturated fat are proven stress reducers with no negative side effects.  How about trying these instead?  In addition, activities such as meditating, therapies and even religious activities can help.


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