Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease
Consumption of alcohol is becoming more popular by the hour. As a recreational drink, alcohol is associated with celebrations and good times. However, there must be a limit to how much an individual can consume to prevent harming your body organs. Therefore, moderate drinking on some occasions is recommended.
While alcoholic beverages can damage a number of organs such as the liver and heart, the cardiovascular system is mostly affected. Controlled drinking does not raise an alarm in the short-term, but excessive and long-term drinking is harmful to your health including your heart. Keep in mind that you should only drink alcohol in moderation.
The more you drink, the higher you increase your chances of developing a cardiovascular disease. These risks are more evident in people who find themselves binge drinking and for those who drink excessively on a regular, as well as a lot over a short period.
The Heart and its Function
The cardiovascular system comprises of the heart and the blood vessels. The heart plays the role of pumping blood around the body through these vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins). This is what keeps you alive and functional. The blood in turn transports nutrients and other necessary supplies to the rest of the body. Alcohol is no exception during transportation of substances through the body. Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream and it will definitely pass through the heart before it is pumped to the rest of the body.
An alcohol consumer will have short-term and long-term side effects. The short-term effects are easily treatable with very high success rates. Once you start to experience short-term effects, this is a sign that you need to reduce your alcohol consumption.
Short-term effects to the cardiovascular system are an increase in the heart rate and high blood pressure. The more you drink, the faster the heart rate, which leads to weakening of the heart muscles, and a continuous irregular heart beat in the long-term. Weakening of the muscles is due to overworking of the blood vessels.
Other signs will show depending of the individual and other factors such as age and an individual’s alcohol tolerance.
• Cardiovascular Diseases
There are different types of heart and cardiovascular diseases. The most common type is the coronary heart diseases. They are caused by different ailments. Despite the different causes, alcohol is one of the major causes. With high intake of alcohol even amongst the young, it is contributing greatly towards the increase in the number of cardiovascular diseases.
According to statistics, younger people are showing signs of cardiovascular diseases earlier in their youth as opposed to some decades back. The increasing rates are attributed majorly to alcohol consumption.
How can Alcohol Damage the Cardiovascular System?
Drinking alcohol in itself is safe only if you are just enough. The recommended intake is just one glass for women and two for men in a day. However, even less is better for better cardiovascular health if other factors are held constant. .
However, drinking it in excess and on a regular basis affects the functionality of the heart and that of its vessels to eventually cause diseases. The cardiovascular system plays a major role in determining how your blood circulates the necessities. Heart diseases or failure of the heart will not pump enough blood. The following are effects of alcohol to the cardiovascular system and the diseases that they cause.
• Alcohol Causes Weak Heart Muscles
The heart muscles are responsible for contracting with the aim of helping to pump blood. Without getting into the scientific background of the parts of the heart, you can damage heart muscle with too many alcoholic beverages. This is independent of the alcohol content involved. This is the reason hard liquor as opposed to wine will cause more damage. Too many bottles will cause cardiomyopathy, which is a heart related disease.
Cardiomyopathy then leads to a weak heart with because of weak muscles. Any body muscle that weakens cannot perform as expected. This will in turn cause an enlargement of the four heart chambers. An enlargement will bring about weak and slower contractions leading to a difficulty in blood circulation. Poor blood circulation will also cause overall weakness because you are not getting enough nutrients to boost your energy levels.
In extreme and persistent cases, cardiomyopathy leads to congestive heart failure. This failure means that your heart cannot pump enough to meet the needs of your body. The imbalance created affects your overall health, as your body is not getting all the desired nutrients in the required proportions. This if not addressed will lead to other organ complications due to lack of proper functionality.
• An Increased Heart Rate (Tachycardia)
The human heart beats systematically to ensure that it can pump sufficient amount of blood through the entire system. The systematic beating also ensures that it does not strain when performing its functions. By drinking alcohol, variability occurs as it alters the normal heart rate. This variability is what causes complications because it alters the functionality of the heart.
Heavy drinking on a regular will cause tachycardia. Tachycardia refers to an increased heart rate due to related problems that affect electrical signals, which are responsible for the production of a heartbeat. This is also, what you refer to as a pulse. Frequent cases of tachycardia have the possibility of causing blood clots. These blood clots may develop to cause a stroke or a heart attack.
A blood clot goes unnoticed for a while especially if you do not go for regular checkups. This inability to detect it fast is what cases the vital reaction that may lead to a heart attack. This is the reason you should avoid alcohol to prevent an emergency.
• An Increase in Blood Pressure
Blood pressure refers to the impact force placed on blood vessel walls as the heart pumps blood. It is a danger when blood pressure is too high and when it is too low. During either occurrence, you may feel a pain in your chest.
Drinking alcohol increases this blood pressure thus increasing the force of pumping blood through the arteries. Consumption of alcohol on a few occasions still triggers this effect though it is not too hefty on the arteries. The pressure will regulate itself back to normal given time if the intake is minimal and less frequent.
Persistent and binge drinking will cause hypertension/ high blood pressure. High blood pressure will in turn cause hardening and thickening of the arteries. This greatly increases the chances of a stroke and/or a heart attack.
If individuals notice this concern in its early stages, it is easier to control the situation as opposed to allowing it to develop without treatment. Even with treatment, it is best that an individual significantly cuts on alcohol consumption. This is because medication provided may react to alcohol causing other fatal reactions.
• An Irregular Heart Beat
You will notice a change in your heartbeat after some regular and consistent drinking. The change in how the heart beats is referred to as arrhythmia. This occurs due to changes in the electric system, which causes the heart to beat too slow or too fast. When it is too slow, it will lead to heart failure and without medical attention, subsequent death. Alcohol induces acute cardiac rhythmic disturbances. Persistent alcohol consumption will leads to cardiac arrest or a stroke.
• Atrial fibrillation
There are cases when the heart’s upper chamber quivers. A quivering section of the heart will beat slower than the rest of the other parts. Alcohol is known to raise this problem. This concern arises both during a one-off drinking experience as well as during continuous and excessive drinking. It is however fatal for people who drink too much on a regular.
This concern does not allow the heart to pump blood as normal and this is not enough to circulate efficiently. This will lead to formation of blood pools and blood clots. In the event a clot breaks while it is still in the blood stream, in an artery in the brain, it will cause an ischemic stroke.
How does alcohol increase the risk of ischemic stroke?
As indicated, an ischemic stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain tissue blocks. The blockage can arise from a clot or from other components such as fat deposits. Alcohol increases the chance of this type of stroke for the following reasons.
* Alcohol causes an irregular heartbeat and weakens the heart muscles. This leads to a blood clot as blood moves slower than it should giving it time to coagulate.
* By causing high blood pressure, there is the possibility of a foreign body breaking off and entering into the blood stream. This foreign body then has a chance to find its way into a blood vessel in the brain.
* Alcohol also raises fat levels in the blood, which may form a blood clot. If the clot occurs in a clogged artery, chances of a stroke are higher.
Another type of stroke that may occur is the hemorrhagic stroke. This occurs if an artery that is responsible for supplying brain tissue tears and bleeds. The tearing may occur due to increased blood pressure. In relation to alcohol consumption, alcohol increases the risk of hemorrhage stroke.
This is because it causes high blood pressure, which increases the chance of creating a weak point on artery walls. The force created will lead to bleeding of the artery walls because they are weak yet they are forced to constantly pump blood. While high intake of alcohol increases the risk of coronary artery disease, any amount of alcohol increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Higher alcohol use will increase the risk of coronary artery disease where the coronary arteries become narrow and over time, they will block. Coronary arteries play the role of supplying blood to the heart. Blocking this artery will lead to heart attacks and/ or angina.
Long-term and Heavy Alcohol Drinking
Many people start drinking alcohol as a trial while others do it just because others around them are drinking (social/ peer pressure build up). According to statistics, more people are starting to drink at a younger age recently. Over time, many tend to drink much more than they should, be it voluntary or involuntary.
Heavy alcohol consumption to ease situations such as stress, raises more concern for the heart. At this point, the individual is drinking not because their body can keep up with the consumption rate but because they are trying to suppress pain or emotional distress. Much of the alcohol remains in the blood and finds its way to the heart through the blood vessels.
The body will have a difficult time cleaning up the alcohol in the system because it is already too much due to the accumulation over time. The heart will therefore, overwork in an effort to try and meet the body demands and needs. The constant strain will lead to weak muscles and a reducing heart rate. This will gradually develop into a stroke.
Binge drinking refers to drinking too much alcohol over a short period. Most of the time it is considered a stress reliever that works over a short period. Binge drinking even for the young who consider their hearts strong and healthy will eventually cause cardio diseases.
Binge drinking will reverse any benefits obtained from moderate drinking such as a controlled blood pressure. Affecting the functioning of the heart from binge drinking will cause the inability of the arteries and vessels to retain their health. Weak blood vessels will not supply the heart with sufficient blood to meet the needs of the body.
Cases that Affect the Heart more with Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is harmful to right about everyone. However, there are cases in which, even a slight exposure to alcohol will overwhelm the heart and its functionality. Individuals suffering from high blood pressure or those who have a history of stroke even from different triggers should refrain from alcohol. Even a little amount of alcohol will trigger a heart disease.
People with a history of stroke or have experienced a stroke before, will have medication that may not go well with alcohol. Drinking of alcohol under this state will cause more damage to the heart. Persons with the above condition should not take alcohol to help better the health of their heart.
Facts to Know About Alcohol and the Cardiovascular System
People debate about various aspects of alcohol consumption and its relation to an individual’s cardiovascular health. The following are some health facts that you should know about alcohol and its relation to your heart.
• Excessive drinking of alcohol is not good for your health be it cardiovascular or otherwise.
Consumption of alcohol in excess will destroy your overall health. The immediate effects are evident as people get weak and appear to be sickly. To the cardiovascular system, alcohol affects its functionality by slowing down your heartbeat or intensely increasing it. This causes irregularities in the functionality of the heart. A malfunctioning heart exposes your body to weakness. Other diseases can easily attack a weak body in addition to cardiovascular diseases.
• Alcohol effects on the cardiovascular system will vary widely from one person to another.
The above section highlights the possible effects and related diseases of alcohol to the cardiovascular system. However, they do not all occur similarly with every person who drinks alcohol. Different people will experience different symptoms and ailments. Others experience minimal signs whereas others will fall victim to a heart attack in the early stages.
Therefore, just because someone you know drinks a lot of alcohol and has not shown any problems does not mean that the same thing will happen with you. This said, different people are going to undergo different experiences. The above effects and diseases are just but the complications registered in general.
• Age is a key factor at relating to how well an individual can tolerate alcohol
Other factors held constant, age will determine the rate at which people are able to tolerate alcohol. People who have been drinking over some time are more likely to consume more without showing the signs of alcohol.
As people age, their alcohol tolerance reduces and you can barely keep up with your usual number of drinks. You will also find yourself prone to diseases and the functionality of the heart is naturally slower. Alcohol will slow it down even further thus increasing the risk a cardiovascular disease.
• Excessive drinking can kill you.
Consumption of alcohol comes with fun and crazy memories to many. However, many cases of death have been registered with the excessive drinking of alcohol. Drinking in moderation is the preferred option.
Excessive drinking will kill you because it directly affects the functionality of the cardiovascular system. It causes an irregular heartbeat over time. Those who indulge in binge drinking are likely to end up with a heart attack. If this condition is not addressed in its early stages, death is the ultimate result due to heart failure.
• Avoiding alcohol is the best choice. If you must, wine is better than hard liquor
When seeking to protect the functionality of your heart and that of its blood vessels, it is best that you refrain from alcohol. If you have not started to drink alcohol, simply do not start.
However, for those who have already made it a habit, it is recommended that you consider wine over hard liquor. The effects of hard liquor on the heart are more evident and harmful as compared to consumption of wine. Remember to regulate and control your drinking even if you are drinking wine.
Alcoholism and Cardiovascular Diseases
An alcoholic cannot do without alcoholic beverages voluntarily. This category of people is prone to showing signs of heart diseases. This is because they are consuming much more alcohol than their own bodies can sustain. This in turn makes it difficult for their system to stay clean and their heart to function as desired.
The more alcohol they consume, the more their blood remains contaminated. The heart is therefore, exposed to more alcohol which is capable of reducing the heart rate. Cases of alcoholics experiencing a heart attack are more than cases of a regular drinker. This is because they are more likely to form a clot due to the high alcohol content in the blood.
In many cases, treating an alcoholic for a cardiovascular disease is difficult. This is because the provided medication reacts to the alcohol in the system and raises other concerns. Not all drugs are alcohol intolerant. The disease will worsen if the patient takes medication while at the same time retains their alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption is not recommended especially if you are not able keep it under control. Considering that, you may not know whether your alcohol tolerance is high or low, the best option is to stay away from all alcoholic beverages. You will not only remain sober with better decision making capabilities but you will also protect the health of your cardiovascular system.
There is a direct link between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular diseases. You will prevent diseases such stroke and heart attack. The theory that alcohol is good for the heart only applies depending on what you are taking as well as the quantity of your drink. Overall, taking it over a long period is bound to introduce cardiovascular diseases.
The above content outlines how alcohol affects the cardiovascular system to cause diseases. It also outlines some basic facts that people need to understand in relation to alcohol and cardiovascular diseases. More importantly, you will be able to identify the effects of excessive drinking and binge drinking before it is too late to remedy the situation.
If you must drink an alcoholic beverage, do so in moderation. It is only in this manner that you will prevent alcoholism and other diseases. Never make assumptions on how much an individual may drink based on another person’s experience and capabilities.