Moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of sudden cardiac death among US male physicians

Circulation. 1999 Aug 31;100(9):944-50. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.100.9.944.


Background: Individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol (>5 drinks/d) have increased risks of ventricular arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death (SCD). However, the relationship is less clear for drinkers of light-to-moderate amounts.

Methods and results: We prospectively assessed whether light-to-moderate alcohol drinkers have a decreased risk of SCD among 21 537 male participants in the Physicians Health Study who were free of self-reported cardiovascular disease and provided complete information on alcohol intake at study entry. Over 12 years of follow-up, 141 SCDs were confirmed. After control for multiple confounders, men who consumed 2 to 4 drinks/wk (RR=0.40; 95% CI, 0.22 to 0.75; P=0.004) or 5 to 6 drinks/wk (RR=0.21; 95% CI, 0.08 to 0.56; P=0.002) at baseline had significantly reduced risks of SCD compared with those who rarely or never consumed alcohol. The relationship for SCD was U-shaped (P=0. 002), with the risk approaching unity at >/=2 drinks/d. In contrast, the relationship of alcohol intake and nonsudden CHD death was L-shaped or linear (P for trend=0.02).

Conclusions: In these prospective data, men who consumed light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (2 to 6 drinks/wk) had a significantly reduced risk of SCD compared with those who rarely or never consumed alcohol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / complications
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk