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Alcohol Awareness Month: Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which makes this month a good time to learn about the health effects of alcohol on your heart.

Drinking a lot of alcohol increases your risk of a number of alcoholism, breast cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, suicide, and accidents, according to the American Heart Association. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause unhealthy effects on your heart, such as injury to the heart muscle, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, stroke, and sudden death.

Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Your Heart

Regular use of alcohol can lead to diseases of the heart muscle, a condition known as cardiomyopathy. Alcohol produces a toxic effect directly on the heart muscle. In time, the toxic effects of alcohol prevent the heart muscle from pumping blood effectively. This eventually leads to heart failure, a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Binge drinking or cardiomyopathy can cause irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias, which occur when the four chambers of the heart beat irregularly. Alcohol can cause a variety of arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and ventricular tachycardia. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the top two chambers of the heart beat irregularly. Atrial flutter happens when the top two chambers have a regular rhythm but beat too quickly. Ventricular tachycardia occurs when the bottom chambers of the heart beat irregularly. When an individual stops drinking, arrhythmias associated with alcohol consumption often resolve on their own.

Drinking alcohol regularly can also increase your blood pressure. Sipping just three drinks in one sitting can raise blood pressure temporarily; repeated long-term binge drinking can cause sustained high blood pressure, known as hypertension.

Alcohol can also affect your heart indirectly by causing weight gain. Alcoholic beverages are typically high in calories that can cause you to gain weight; the risk for heart problems is higher for people who are overweight or obese, as the excess weight can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Who Is at Highest Risk of Heart Problems Associated with Alcohol Consumption?

Alcohol can be especially harmful to some people with certain health conditions, such as:

  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • A history of stroke
  • High triglycerides

April is an excellent time to learn if alcohol consumption is affecting the health of your heart. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 770.730.0119 today to make an appointment with Virtual Imaging.