When it comes to taking medication for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease, many people wonder about the effects of alcohol consumption. The truth is that consuming alcohol remains controversial because, while some studies have demonstrated benefits, there are also several well-known risks. Here is some information about the benefits and risks of moderate alcohol consumption.
Is Alcohol Heart-Healthy?
Moderate consumption of alcohol means no more than two drinks per day for men or one for women. One drink is considered 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of liquor. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), drinking at these levels is typically not associated with health risks and may prevent some forms of heart disease. The type of alcohol has also been a topic of controversy. It was originally believed that it was a component in red wine that offered heart healthy benefits. However, studies have shown that it is the ethanol itself, rather than a specific component of wine, beer, or liquor, that appears to be the major contributing factor in providing the health benefits, and all forms of alcohol provide equal protection. Although red wine does offer additional benefits, such as its antioxidant effects, it is believed that the specific alcoholic beverage is less important than the quantity and pattern of alcohol consumption. Additionally, it appears that daily consumption of alcohol, in men and women, provides greater health benefits as compared to less frequent consumption.
According to the American Heart Association, some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels in certain people. However, they also suggest that if you don’t already drink alcohol, the benefits aren’t great enough to recommend alcohol consumption when weighed against the potential risks. Some studies have observed that drinking alcohol in moderation may have some heart-health benefits, particularly with respect to heart disease and the risk of heart attack. People who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of heart disease than non-drinkers. However, increased consumption of alcohol is associated with several risks, such alcoholism, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity, stroke, and cancer. The American Heart Association cautions people against increasing their alcohol intake and does not recommend that they start drinking alcohol if they do not already do so.
Is It Healthy to Drink Alcohol With My Cholesterol-Lowering Medication?
According to the NIH, there are more than 150 prescription and over-the-counter medications that interact with alcohol. For people who take cholesterol-lowering drugs, alcohol may lead to an increased risk of side effects, such as liver damage. Alcohol can also lead to an increase in triglyceride levels. With many cholesterol-lowering drugs, especially the statins, you should not drink alcohol because of the potential for increased triglyceride levels and an increased risk of liver damage.
To Drink or Not to Drink?
The pros and cons of moderate alcohol consumption are different for everyone. If you did not drink alcohol before you found out you needed to lower your cholesterol, don’t start now. If you already consumed moderate amounts of alcohol before you started taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, talk to your doctor. The bottom line, when it comes to drinking alcohol while trying to lower your cholesterol, is consult with your doctor for the best advice on consuming alcohol in moderation for you. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations when you are taking your cholesterol-lowering medication to make sure you are taking it safely and effectively.