Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Do alcohol and statins mix?

Q. I'm 72 years old, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I take HydroDiuril, Lipitor, and aspirin. I feel fine, but I want to know if I can drink red wine while I'm taking these medications.

A. It sounds like you are on a good combination of medications, with a thiazide diuretic (HydroDiuril) for hypertension, a statin drug (Lipitor) to lower your cholesterol, and aspirin to reduce your risk of heart attack. Even with these medications, of course, you should eat right, stay lean, exercise regularly, shun tobacco, and keep your stress under control. You should also be sure your medications are bringing your blood pressure and cholesterol down to the levels your doctor has set as a goal.

Like all these medications and lifestyle interventions, low-dose alcohol appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks and certain strokes. That means one to two drinks a day, counting five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1.5 ounces of liquor as one drink. Although red wine has theoretical advantages for the heart, studies suggest that all forms of alcohol are equally protective as long as the dose is right.

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