Background: Although heavy alcohol consumption increases total mortality, light to moderate consumption decreases cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in apparently healthy people. Since data are sparse on the relation of light to moderate alcohol intake to mortality in patients with previous myocardial infarction, we did a prospective study of mortality in men.
Method: Of 90,150 men in the Physicians' Health Study enrollment cohort who provided information on alcohol intake and who had no history of cancer, stroke, or liver disease, 5358 had a previous myocardial infarction. We estimated alcohol consumption by food-frequency questionnaire.
Findings: During a mean follow-up of 5 years, 920 men died. After adjustment for several potential confounders, moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant decrease in total mortality (p=0.016). Compared with men who rarely or never drank alcohol, those who drank one to four drinks per month had a relative risk for total mortality of 0.85 (95% CI 0.69-1.05); for two to four drinks per week, the relative risk was 0.72 (0.58-0.89); for one drink per day 0.79 (0.64-9.96); and for two or more drinks per day 0.84 (0.55-1.26).
Interpretation: Men with previous myocardial infarction who consume small to moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower total mortality.