Alcohol and Heart Disease

Alcohol and Heart Disease

Heart disease is becoming prevalent in recent times. In America, it is estimated that 1 of every 12 people are plagued with this health condition. However, a lot of people are still unaware of the role played by alcohol in heart-related diseases.

Over the years, researchers have revealed that excess alcohol consumption causes heart issues. Excessive drinking – whether on a regular basis over a period or at a sitting- can endanger your heart and life. However, moderate consumption of alcohol protects the heart against coronary artery disease.

Although determining the right amount to consume can be confusing, you need to know some facts and seek the advice of a professional physician to overcome this.

Functions of the Heart

The blood, blood vessels, and heart make up the human cardiovascular system. This is a non-stop 24 hours working system, circulating nutrients and oxygen to the cells and removing unnecessary body wastes like carbon dioxide.

The heart is the organ behind this process. The heart is a muscle that pumps and transport blood through the proper paths. The human heart beats about 100,000 times daily, distributing about 2, 000 gallons of blood through the entire body.

The two chambers of the heart receive and pump back blood to the body. The right part releases blood into the lungs, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. The heart relaxes a bit for the left chamber to receive the blood. The oxygen-rich blood is now pumped to organs and tissues.

As blood flows through the kidneys, it flushes out unwanted elements and wastes. Electrical signals maintain this routine they sustain and keep the heart pumping rate.

Health Conditions Associated With Excessive Consumption of Alcohol


Excessive drinking over a long time weakens the muscles of the heart, and this often leads to alcohol cardiomyopathy. When the heart is weakened, contraction is hindered. And at such, it may not be able to supply sufficient blood to nourish the organs. Several cases have been recorded where this shortage of supply caused serious harm to the tissues and organs.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

  • Fatigue
  • Swollen legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat

This health condition may even result in heart failure.


The beat rate of the heart can be affected by excessive drinking. There is an internal organ responsible for the consistent pumping of the heart and at the right speed.  Alcohol alters the moderating system, causing a rapid and irregular heartbeat. This abnormal heart beat rate is referred to as arrhythmias. Arrhythmias caused   by alcohol are of two types, namely:

Atrial Fibrillation: In this condition, the upper chamber of the heart moves slightly but do not contract. Blood accumulates and even clot in these upper chambers. Unfortunately, a stroke may occur when a blood clot is pumped from the heart to the brain; if same moves to other organs like the lungs, it could block the blood vessel or cause embolism.

Ventricular Tachycardia: This type of arrhythmia takes place in the lower part of the heart. Electrical signals pass through the muscles of the heart, activating contractions that regulate appropriate blood flow. When alcohol damages the heart muscles, it causes irregular movement of the electrical signals around the ventricle, resulting in excess contractions. The irregular heartbeat makes it impossible for an adequate refill between each beat, hindering the rest of the body from getting an adequate supply of blood. This could lead to diseases, unconsciousness, lightheadedness, cardiac arrest and even death.

Excessive drinking at a go (especially for those who do not drink on a regular basis) could cause any of these abnormalities. This situation is informally called “holiday heart syndrome.” As the name suggests, people who do not drink may get into the act and are likely to consume excess at social outings during the holidays. In the long-term, excess drinking alters the perception of electrical impulses which influence heartbeat and may degenerate into arrhythmia.


When there is an irregular blood flow in the brain, stroke occurs. 80% of strokes are caused by blood clot which prevents adequate supply of blood to the brain. This type of stroke is referred to as ischemic stroke. In some cases, blood clots in or around the brain, a situation that results in hemorrhagic strokes.

Whether long-term or binge drinking, excessive consumption of alcohol could result in stroke; even in individuals that do not suffer from coronary heart disease. Scientists record that a binge drinker’s chances of suffering from ischemic stroke in 10 years is 56% higher than those who do not binge drink. They also have 36% more likelihood of experiencing any form of stroke compared to those does not drink.

Also, the intake of alcohol intensifies conditions that lead to stroke and conditions like arrhythmias, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy.


Long-term alcohol users stand a high risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. Blood pressure measures the pressure created by your heart beats, as well as the pressure in the arteries and veins. When the blood vessels are healthy, they are elastic, and they expand as the heart transport blood through them. But when these vessels are stiff and inflexible, hypertension may occur. Excess consumption of alcohol may prompt the release of some hormones which in turn contract the blood vessels.

Alcohol may modify the function of muscles around the vessels, causing them to shrink

The Benefits of Moderate Consumption Of Alcohol

According to research, a healthy person who consumes alcohol moderately stands a lower chance of developing coronary heart disease compared to a non-drinker. By Moderate, it means consumption of not more than two bottles a day for men and an average of one daily for women. Pregnant women and those trying to conceive must abstain from any form of alcohol.

Several factors which include genetics, age, high blood pressure, and diet can result in the accumulation of fat in the arteries, giving rise to coronary heart disease. When there is excessive fat, it compresses the coronary arteries which are channels through which blood is supplied to the heart. These arteries become too narrow for easy flow and supply of blood to the heart muscles, increasing the chances of blood clotting.  This could leave the individual with a heart attack and stroke.


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