Annual Review of Medicine

Vol. 47:149-160 (Volume publication date February 1996)


AbstractDisparities in the relationships between alcohol consumption and various cardiovascular conditions are now evident, with complex interrelationships between conditions. An inverse relationship of alcohol use to coronary heart disease is supported by many population studies. Interpretation of these data as a protective effect of alcohol against coronary disease is strengthened by plausible mechanisms. Although some experimental data suggest the hypothesis that wine, in particular, has additional protective benefit, prospective studies show no consensus on this point. Strong, consistent epidemiologic data support a relationship of heavier drinking to hypertension. Intervention studies show a pressor effect of alcohol, which appears and regresses within several days, but a mechanism has not yet been established. As with most aspects of alcohol and health effects, the data do not suggest monotonic relationships of alcohol with these conditions. Thus, amount of alcohol taken is a crucial consideration. Advice to concerned persons needs to take into account individual factors in drinkers or potential drinkers.