How alcohol affects the heart

The author of the article: Nivelichuk Taras, head of the department of anesthesiology and intensive care, work experience of 8 years. Higher education in the specialty Medicine.

From this article you will learn: the positive effect of alcohol on the heart is a myth or truth, which cardiovascular diseases are associated with alcohol abuse, what is the maximum amount of alcohol-containing products that women and men are allowed to drink.

For many years, there is an opinion that alcohol consumption favorably affects the heart. It serves as an excuse for many people who drink large quantities of alcohol.

Scientific evidence suggests that ethanol does indeed have certain beneficial properties for the cardiovascular system. However, a prerequisite for the emergence and preservation of these positive properties is moderation in the use of alcoholic beverages. If you drink them constantly and in large quantities, it can cause many heart diseases.

Therefore, people who do not drink alcohol, start to use it in order to improve the health of the cardiovascular system, doctors strongly recommend.

How alcohol affects the heart

How alcohol affects the heart, you can consult with a cardiologist or a narcologist.

How much alcohol can be safely consumed

Doctors recommend that men use no more than 2 standard doses of alcoholic beverages per day, and women – no more than 1 standard dose per day.

Under the standard dose mean the amount of alcoholic beverage, which contains 14 grams of pure ethyl alcohol. This amount is contained in:

  • 360 ml of light beer having a strength of 5%;
  • 150 ml of wine having a strength of 12%;
  • 45 ml of vodka having a strength of 40%.

How alcohol damages the cardiovascular system

Alcohol can harm the heart and blood vessel. At the time of use, a temporary increase in heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) is possible. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to permanent tachycardia, hypertension, heart rhythm disturbances and weakening of the heart muscle. All these effects of consumption increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The negative effects of alcohol on the heart:

Heart rate increase

Alcohol can cause heart rate variability, that is, changes the time between contractions of the heart muscle. Scientific studies have found that regular alcohol abuse can cause tachycardias. Regular episodes of an increase in heart rate can be associated with various complications – for example, the formation of blood clots, which are dangerous for the development of myocardial infarction or stroke.

Increased blood pressure

Episodic drinking can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure, and regular abuse causes persistent hypertension. An alcoholic product increases blood pressure through many mechanisms, and scientific evidence shows that stopping alcohol can reduce its level. Increased blood pressure can cause thickening and thickening of the arterial walls, and is also a risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke. Scientific studies have found that drinking more than two standard doses of alcohol causes an immediate increase in blood pressure.

Weakening of the heart muscle

Alcohol abuse can cause cardiomyopathy – damage to the heart muscle. Most often, alcoholics develop dilated cardiomyopathy, in which all the chambers of the heart increase in size and its walls become thinner. This disease leads to congestive heart failure, in which the body cannot effectively pump blood through the body.

Heart rhythm disorders

Alcohol can cause acute heart rhythm disorders, most often atrial fibrillation (AF). In AF, the myocardium of the upper chambers of the heart (atrium) is reduced uncoordinated. Alcohol causes heart rhythm disorders due to both acute and chronic effects on the heart. With AF, there is stagnation of blood in the left atrium, which can lead to the formation of a blood clot in the organ. This increases the risk of thromboembolic complications, to which, for example, ischemic stroke belongs.

In addition to negative effects directly on the heart, alcohol abuse can cause other effects that affect the health of the cardiovascular system:

  • Increase the amount of fat in the blood.
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes, which then affects the heart and blood vessels.

The beneficial effect of alcoholic beverages on the heart

There is scientific evidence that a moderate amount of alcohol may be beneficial for the cardiovascular system. For example, using 2 standard doses per day can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by 50%. It is believed that the most useful is red wine.

Main positive effects:

  1. Increasing the level of beneficial cholesterol in the blood and reducing atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries.
  2. Alcohol can act as an anticoagulant, that is, it dilutes the blood. This action reduces the likelihood of myocardial infarction.
  3. Alcohol relieves coronary artery spasm during stress.
  4. Alcohol can reduce insulin levels and increase estrogen levels in the blood.
  5. Alcohol increases blood flow in the coronary arteries.

However, doctors do not recommend starting to drink alcohol in order to get their positive effect on the heart. These same effects can be achieved with a healthy diet, physical activity, normalization of weight and other changes in lifestyle. Moreover, the negative effect of alcohol on other organs outweighs its positive effect on the cardiovascular system.

How to avoid the negative effects of alcohol on the heart

If a person wants to avoid the negative effects of alcohol on the heart, he needs to remember the following tips:

  • Drink alcohol only in recommended safe amounts.
  • If you have ever had problems with drinking alcohol, you are absolutely forbidden to start drinking.
  • If you have high blood pressure, alcohol should be treated with extreme caution. Doctors recommend to completely abandon their use until blood pressure is normalized.
  • If you notice that you can not stop in time when drinking alcohol, you should completely abandon them.
  • Patients with cardiovascular diseases should remember that for them alcohol and the heart are incompatible.
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