The heart is responsible for pumping blood that circulates throughout our bodies. The blood then supplies oxygen and other nutrients to different organs and tissues of the body.
When the blood vessels surrounding the heart gets damaged, the heart’s pumping system no longer functions properly. This damage can develop critical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and can eventually lead to death.
Excessive alcohol intake enhances the risk of developing heart problems. Low drinking levels scarcely cause heart damage.
Staying low-risk can aid in preventing the heart from obtaining any form of damage, especially if you’re over 45 years old.
In this article, we will debunk myths and provide you facts with regards to the correlation between alcohol and the human heart.
What is heart disease?
There are many kinds of heart disease. One of the most common ones is known as coronary heart disease (CHD). This is the result of plaque buildup or simply a buildup of deposits of fat in the arteries.
The coronary arteries are in charge of supplying the heart muscles with blood rich in oxygen.
Due to the plaque buildup, the arteries contract, making it difficult for them to supply blood to the muscles of the heart.
This buildup can worsen over time and may develop into a heart attack.
What is a heart attack?
The heart attack is just one of the many results of CHD. It is a common result of CHD that can lead to sudden death. A heart attack takes place when the coronary arteries become blocked entirely.
Due to this blockage, a supply of blood to the heart becomes restricted and the heart muscles fail to receive oxygen. Once the heart gets starved of oxygen, the heart’s pumping system will malfunction and lead to heart failure.
Heart failures can develop uncomfortable conditions like shortness of breath and swelling of some body parts. These conditions can worsen over time and haunt you until the end of time.
In severe cases, the coronary arteries experience intense blockage to the point that the heart ultimately stops beating, causing sudden death from a heart attack.
Heart failure is still incurable at the moment. However, there are several drugs available that can help regulate the symptoms of heart failure.
Does alcohol have any health benefits?
Research actually suggests that drinking small volumes of alcohol can actually be beneficial. Some studies show that it can even result in effects that can protect the heart.
However, studies also show that this benefit is restricted to women who are older than 45 years. It appears that older women (45 years and above) will not experience any benefit even if their alcohol intake is only minimal.
Researchers are still unsure as to how alcohol creates a protective effect, but they are leaning on these two mechanisms:
- Artery damage prevention: Apparently, alcohol is capable of increasing the blood’s ‘good’ cholesterol level. This can help reduce plaque buildup in the arteries and prevent them from clogging altogether.
- Thrombosis prevention: Thrombosis, or the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels, can totally close off the passageway of the arteries and cause a heart attack. Small volumes of alcohol, accompanied by a regular meal, can actually prevent our protein (fibrinogen) levels from soaring and ultimately aid in preventing the formation of blood clots.
Can I develop heart disease from drinking alcohol?
Long-term excessive drinking or drinking more than your low-risk guidelines on a regular basis heightens your chances of developing a heart disease.
The reason for this is because drinking alcohol on a higher level than your lower risk guidelines can:
- Increase your risk of getting a high blood pressure. Too much alcohol intake raises the blood pressure levels. High blood pressure is an important risk factor for heart attack and even stroke. Too much alcohol intake can also cause weight gain, which can also increase the blood pressure levels.
- Weaken the heart’s muscle. Heavy alcohol drinking can cause the heart muscle to weaken. Weak heart muscle means a weak pumping system. If the heart’s pumping system becomes weak, it will no longer function effectively and can develop into a more serious and fatal condition. For example, this case can result in an enlarged heart or it may develop to cardiomyopathy and ultimately cause sudden death.
- Lead to Holiday Heart Syndrome. Holiday Heart Syndrome usually occurs after several episodes of heavy alcohol drinking. This condition was named this way due to the fact that reported cases significantly increase during the holidays, wherein people tend to consume a lot of alcohol. As festive as the name sounds, having Holiday Heart Syndrome is a terrible condition to deal with. Your heart will start beating irregularly, you will experience severe chest pains, and you will almost always feel breathless. Overall, you will feel as though you’re suffering a heart attack. If you have this condition, you are also susceptible to having a drastic increase in blood pressure and hence develop a heart attack.
Should I stop alcohol consumption?
As much as alcohol can sometimes be a form of escapism, it just isn’t worth the risk. People may say that it’s a risk-benefit trade-off.
As previously mentioned, alcohol has potential protective effects such as blood clot prevention, etc. However, this benefit can also enhance the chances of getting a stroke or brain hemorrhage.
Alcohol greatly affects the heart, and frankly, the risks of consuming alcohol far outweigh the benefits. Heavy alcohol drinking not only increases the risks of developing heart diseases but also diseases in other organs of the body.
For example, excessive drinking of alcohol can also cause liver problems and cancer. You may think that alcohol may be beneficial for the heart as long as you drink just a tiny amount.
But there are better and safer ways to protect your heart from developing any heart disease. These include the following practices:
- Exercising regularly
- Going on a healthy diet
- Making yourself aware of the hazards of unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking
- Let go of habits that can increase your levels of stress and blood pressure
To learn more about heart diseases you can read some of the articles linked below.