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Alcohol and Heart Disease

Lawrence D. Horwitz, MD
JAMA. 1975;232(9):959-960. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03250090047020.
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TESTIMONIALS such as the Latin proverb, "In vino veritas," or the more modern, but equally immortal, lines by Ogden Nash: Candy Is dandy But liquor Is quicker attest to the popularity of alcoholic beverages. Cardiac patients who subscribe to these views often ask their physician whether they should continue to imbibe. Unfortunately, many physicians are unaware that alcohol may have detrimental effects on the heart. This is not surprising since for centuries there has been a widespread misconception, promulgated in textbooks of medicine, that alcohol is a cardiac "stimulant."

In fact, there is strong evidence that ethanol is a myocardial depressant. When isolated rat atria are exposed to concentrations of 100 mg/ 100 ml, or more, developed tension is reduced, a finding indicative of impaired contractile function. In conscious dogs, ethanol in an intravenous dose equivalent to a human drinking 120 to 150 ml (4 to 5 oz) of 90-proof


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