Trust me, this isn’t an easy subject to write about…most people would prefer I avoid it, including some in my own family. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t. It’s about drinking alcohol and your heart.
We’ve all heard that a glass of wine is good for our hearts, for our circulation. And there’s truth, and fiction, about that.
The problem is that most of us are not satisfied with a single glass of Cabernet.
Instead, we prefer to drink like we’re in a race to finish the bottle…and open a new one.
But we know, obviously, that this is unhealthy, and we know, in theory, that it’s bad for our hearts.
So, take a look at what, exactly, it’s doing to the most vital organ in our bodies. Consider what happens when you put alcohol and your heart together.
In an interview with an endowed professor of atrial fibrillation research, Gregory Marcus, at the University of California in San Francisco, he had this to say:
“Alcohol can cause variability in the time between heartbeats. Studies have found that regular heavy drinking can cause episodes of tachycardia (increased heart rate due to problems in the electrical signals that produce a heartbeat).
- Complications due to regular episodes of tachycardia vary depending on their frequency, length, and severity, but it can cause blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.”
Alcohol Raises Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure happens when the blood is pumping with more force than normal through the arteries.
Marcus continues by saying “Drinking alcohol on a single occasion can see a temporary increase in blood pressure, and regularly drinking alcohol above the national guidelines can cause alcohol-caused hypertension (high blood pressure)”
He explains: “It can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries, and is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.”
Another effect of mixing alcohol and your heart is that:
Alcohol Weakens Your Heart Muscle.
As stated by Marcus:
- The heart’s ability to contract is due to the muscle layer within the heart wall, called the myocardium.
- Damage to the heart muscle is called cardiomyopathy.
Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to cardiomyopathy.
Alcohol Causes An Irregular Heartbeat
A change in heart rhythm (not to be confused with heart rate) is called an arrhythmia.
According to Marcus, “Arrhythmias can occur because of changes to the heart’s electrical system, which can be caused by blocked signals, abnormal pathways, irritable heart cells, medicines, and stimulants.”
The occurrence of acute cardiac rhythm disturbances (atrial fibrillation is the most common) have been found to be induced by alcohol.”
This is often referred to as “holiday heart syndrome.”
- Disturbances were found to be more frequent after weekends or holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, which tend to involve higher alcohol consumption.
It Can Cause A Heart Attack
- Alcohol consumption can raise the levels of fat in the blood.
“People with high triglycerides often have high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol,” says Marcus.
“High levels of bad cholesterol can clog arteries and if a piece of plaque breaks off, clot forms and a heart attack can result.”
It Can Cause A Stroke
Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of two types of strokes occurring.
➡ The first is an ischemic stroke, where an artery supplying blood to the brain tissue is blocked.
➡ The second type is a hemorrhagic stroke, which can result from an artery that’s supplying brain tissue, tearing and bleeding.
Both result in a disrupted blood flow to brain tissue, and can result in a loss of motor (movement) and sensory (touch, temperature sensations) functions.
A stroke can also damage other systems in the body including the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, digestive and urinary systems.
And there you have it from a leading expert…Think about it from time to time, and before you take that next drink and the next and the one after that.
As with food and exercise, moderation in your lifestyle choices are the key to your overall health, and particularly to protecting your heart.