How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?

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Blood Pressure and Alcohol

  • Alcohol has serious effects on the body and a particular impact on high blood pressure. In a healthy individual, the heart functions by pumping blood through the body through the arteries out to the muscles and organs. When an excessive amount of alcohol is consumed, the heart has to pump at increased amount to get the organs to function normally. Since the heart is pumping at an accelerated pace, it generates pressure quickly, forcing its way through the arteries. When there is too much pressure, blood pressure rises and can cause the arteries to strain or rupture. This can eventually lead to heart failure under the increased strain. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of certain blood pressure medications, which can eventually raise blood pressure.

Heart Disease

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to the production of fats in the blood called triglycerides. Over time, these fats acclimate around the arteries of the heart and cause heart problems such as abnormal rhythms, chest pain and symptoms of heart failure. If left untreated, heart problems can eventually lead to heart disease. The overall outlook for someone with heart disease is not good, eventually leading to death, unless drinking is completely stopped.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

  • The long-term effects of alcohol on the heart can lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Commonly seen in males between the ages of 35 and 50, this disease weakens the heart muscle so that it cannot pump blood efficiently. As a direct effect of alcohol on the heart muscle, the heart can eventually fail, and it can affect other parts of the body.

Positive Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

  • Although correlated with heart problems, it is believed that moderate amounts of alcohol can be beneficial to the heart by protecting against heart disease. Consuming moderate amounts can raise good HDL cholesterol and reduce plaque that accumulates in the arteries. Additionally, alcohol also has a mild anti-coagulating effect, which prevents clumping in the platelets so they do not form clots. For any benefits on the heart, individuals should monitor their consumption of alcohol to two drinks per day for men and one a drink day for women.

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