Heart health is a huge topic of conversation for both men and women. Having a healthy heart is essential for longevity of life and overall wellness, but so many of things that are part of our modern lifestyle are detrimental to heart health.
If you don’t take care of your heart, the complications can be deadly, and so many of the things people are instructed to do to keep their heart healthy are related to lifestyle decisions.
With that being said, what about alcohol and the heart, and alcohol’s effect on the heart?
The following provides general information about heart health, and specific details about the alcohol effect on the heart.
What To Know About a Healthy Heart
Before exploring specific links between alcohol and the heart, why is heart health so important?
Heart disease and cardiovascular complications are among the leading causes of death in the U.S., but many of these deaths are preventable.
The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body, and that blood carries everything from oxygen to hormones that your body needs to function optimally.
Even though so many people suffer from heart-related conditions, particularly as they age, this isn’t considered a normal part of the aging process, and heart health can be managed, particularly when you start from an early age.
The American Heart Association makes recommendations on how to combat cardiovascular disease. Some of their guidelines include making sure you eat a healthy diet and watch your caloric intake, being physically active on a regular basis, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking.
Aside from diet and exercise, people are advised to make sure they get plenty of sleep and even take good care of their teeth. Basically having good overall health can help prevent heart-related problems.
There are different types of cardiovascular conditions that can affect a person. One is coronary heart disease, and this can contribute to death by sudden heart attack. With coronary heart disease, fatty deposits build up on artery walls, and it may lead to the development of blood clots. This then narrows the artery, and it can make it harder for the heart to work the way it needs to in order to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
A heart attack is usually a symptom or a result of coronary heart disease.
So, what about alcohol and the heart? Where does alcohol’s effect on the heart fit into this equation?
Alcohol’s Effect on the Heart
So how are alcohol and the heart related to one another?
The good news first. Some level of drinking may actually be protective for heart health, but only in certain circumstances. There is research showing that alcohol may help protect your heart if you’re over than 45 years old, and you’re drinking within certain guidelines. The guidelines for drinking that would be considered light to moderate is no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, and no more than two if you’re a man.
It appears that low to moderate alcohol use may help increase the amount of good cholesterol in the blood, and it may reduce the amount of artery-narrowing fatty deposits. Researchers and doctors also believe that drinking moderately may help prevent blood clots from forming.
Unfortunately, alcohol’s effect on the heart isn’t always positive, especially when you drink more than the recommended amount.
Drinking in excess, particularly chronically, can increase the risk that you will develop cardiovascular problems.
The reason alcohol and the heart can have a negative relationship with one another is because first, drinking too much can increase your blood pressure, and high blood pressure is one of the key risk factors for having a stroke or heart attack. When you drink excessively, it can also lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor for heart problems.
When you drink heavily, it can weaken your heart muscle as well, which can damage the efficiency of the heart to pump blood. This is known as cardiomyopathy, and it can lead to heart failure and ultimately premature death.
Finally, another way alcohol and the heart interact with one another is the higher risk of an irregular heartbeat. If you drink excessively, it can change the rhythm of your heart, and it can make you feel breathless. This then leads to changes in blood pressure, and you’re at a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
Summing Up—Alcohol and the Heart
If you drink a low or moderate amount of alcohol, it may help protect your heart, especially if you’re older than 45.
However, with alcohol and the heart, if you drink excessively it can significantly increase your risk of developing very serious cardiovascular conditions including high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy. The importance of heart health is just one more reason to make sure you don’t drink excessively, and if you do, to seek help.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.