Both alcoholism and heart disease are common problems in the U.S. Additionally, they are two problems that often intersect, as alcohol often contributes to heart-related health issues. People who abuse or are addicted to alcohol often do not consider the long-term effects that it can have on their heart. To help reduce alcohol-related heart disease, people must educate themselves on the connection between alcohol abuse and heart disease. In addition, people should also understand how much is too much and when having a drink is and is not helpful.
How Drinking in Moderation Can Be Helpful
Drinking alcohol isn’t entirely a bad thing when it comes to heart health. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, the incidence of heart disease is lower in people who do moderately indulge than it is in people who do not. The key is to understand what “moderation” means when it comes to alcohol. For women, a single drink a day is considered drinking in moderation, while men are able to consume two glasses per day. Alcohol, when consumed in these amounts, is helpful to the heart because it has been found to increase good cholesterol. The American Heart Association does not, however, recommend that people start drinking as a way to prevent heart disease, as it places them at greater risk of consuming too much and actually increasing their risk for it.
- How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
- Drinking Alcohol in Moderation Lowers Women’s Risk of Heart Attack
- How Does Alcohol Affect Your Heart?
Alcohol, Diabetes, and Obesity
Both diabetes and obesity are factors that heighten one’s risk of heart disease. Additionally, they are both factors that are negatively affected by consuming alcoholic beverages. Obesity is having an excessive or extreme amount of fat. This unhealthy state is generally bought on by the consumption of too many calories that are not then burned. The caloric intake may come from the drinks themselves, some of which are high in calories. Increased intake of calories may also come from the consumption of high-calorie foods after drinking, or people may seek out foods that are less healthy while they are drinking as opposed to eating healthier meals. Obesity and diabetes often go hand in hand, as obesity increases one’s risk of diabetes. Alcoholic drinks that are mixed with sugary drinks such as cola, fruit juices, and other sweet mixers not only increase one’s risk of obesity, but they also increase one’s risk of diabetes. In addition, certain types of alcoholic drinks, such as wine coolers, are high in sugar on their own and will affect one’s blood sugar.
- Many Unaware of Alcohol Calories
- Obesity and Alcohol: An Overview (PDF)
- The Growing Link Between Alcoholism and Obesity
- Alcohol and Diabetes (PDF)
Alcohol and High Blood Pressure
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important when it comes to heart health, as elevated blood pressure increases one’s risk of heart disease. Alcohol consumption elevates one’s blood pressure in varying degrees. When a person drinks three or more servings of alcohol, their blood pressure is elevated for a short time. When a person is a binge or heavy drinker, however, they are more likely to have long-term problems with elevated blood pressure. People who manage their blood pressure with medication should also approach alcohol cautiously, as it can interfere with some medications. In general, people should limit the amount of alcohol that they consume. Ideally, alcohol consumption should be kept at a moderate level.
- Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Blood Pressure?
- Factors that Affect Blood Pressure
- High Blood Pressure (PDF)
Alcohol and Cholesterol
Alcohol affects cholesterol levels in several ways; however, not all ways are negative. When a person drinks alcohol moderately, they can actually increase good cholesterol levels. The problems occur when an individual overindulges or abuses alcohol. This can cause an increase in triglycerides and as a result an increase in LDL, or “bad cholesterol.” Triglycerides are a type of fat in the body that is carried through the bloodstream by LDL and HDL. When a person drinks alcohol, the calories and sugar from the drink are turned into triglycerides and stored, causing an increase in their number. As a result, LDL level rise, and the triglycerides can elevate the risk of heart disease by hardening the artery wall and can cause atherosclerosis.
- Cholesterol and Alcohol
- NHS: Alcohol and Cholesterol (PDF)
- What Does High Triglyceride Level Mean and What Does it Have to Do With Drinking?
Heart Muscle and Beat Problems
Alcohol’s effect on the heart can result in a number of problems associated with the heart muscle. One of these problems is called cardiomyopathy. This condition occurs in individuals who have abused large amounts of alcohol over a lengthy period of time, to the point that it has resulted in the heart becoming enlarged. In addition, there can also be thinning of the muscle walls of the ventricles. As a result, the heart does not pump as efficiently as it should. This condition can ultimately lead to heart failure. Drinking too much alcohol may also result in cardiac arrhythmias, which may feel as if the heart is racing, beating irregularly, or fluttering slowly. The different types of cardiac arrhythmias are atrial tachycardia, atrial fibrillation or flutter, and bradycardia. This is often due to faulty electrical impulses in the heart.
When the heart suddenly and expectantly stops beating, it is known as sudden cardiac death. One of the top causes of sudden cardiac death is the consumption and abuse of alcohol. Conditions such as cardiomyopathy, which are caused by alcohol abuse, can be an underlying factor for sudden cardiac death. Excessive consumption of alcohol may also cause an interruption of the heart known as a heart attack. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to heart attacks, as it can raise cholesterol levels and as a result cause atherosclerosis, which is one of the leading causes of heart attacks.
- Alcohol a Leading Cause of Some Types of Sudden Cardiac Death
- Alcohol and Your Heart
- Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
- Alcohol Consumption and Heart Failure