Most articles on alcohol consumption and heart-related issues differ greatly. Some say the occasional glass of wine with your meal improves heart health, while others simply dispute the findings. The most substantial evidence pertaining to this topic has shown that alcohol does increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
HDL works to keep bad cholesterol (LDL) from clogging your arteries mainly by moving it to the liver to be broken down and eliminated from the body.
We know that drinking copious amounts of alcohol does increase blood pressure and weight. In turn, doubling the risk of having a stroke, a heart attack, or lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes. What this article is going to do is answer the following questions;
- How does alcohol affect the heart?
- Which type of heart illness may be as a result of alcohol abuse?
- Related warning sign
- Treatment for Cardiomyopathy
- Is there help for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder?
How does alcohol affect the heart?
Some studies believe there’s an association between moderate alcohol intake and a lower risk of dying from heart-related diseases. Whether or not moderate drinking is good for your heart is open to debate, but the keyword here is “moderate,” which is not always the case for most people. As aforementioned, excessive drinking is linked to numerous adverse health outcomes such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and even stroke.
Also referred to as grain alcohol, spirits, or ethanol, or ethanol, alcohol is detrimental to the body when misused. When the liver processes ethanol, it produces what’s known as Acetaldehyde, which not only causes hangovers but also results in scar tissue formation in the body. Which, in turn, can lead to a disruption of various heart functions.
When the cardiovascular muscles are adversely affected by alcoholism, they weaken and deteriorate; consequently, the damaged muscles are unable to transport blood effectively. With time, the heart becomes very large because of the undue stress. This is dangerously fatal.
At its worst, excessive drinking can potentially cause irreversible damage to other vital body organs. Individuals with alcohol use disorder, including those that binge drink, their habit can take a toll on the heart leading to medical issues such as;
- Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmia)
- High blood pressure
- Including inflammation of the liver and pancreas
- Damage to the brain
- A declining immune system
- Alcohol-associated cancers
Which form of heart disease can be caused by long-term alcohol abuse?
When you ask your physician how alcohol affects the heart, Cardiomyopathy would probably be their first answer. There is an obvious link between chronic use of alcohol and developing high BP. Over time, high blood pressure puts a strain on the heart, which in turn, leads to the heart muscle getting rigid, thick, and enlarged.
That is what Cardiomyopathy is.
Alcohol-induced Cardiomyopathy causes the heart to deteriorate, thus making it more difficult for it to pump blood. As a result, the heart starts to expand more in order to hold the extra blood. If not addressed, it can then lead to irregular heart rates (arrhythmias), including life-threatening issues such as a weakened heart valve or even heart failure, which can be fatal.
a. Signs of Alcohol-induced Cardiomyopathy
Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on your heart over time, causing the muscles of the heart to become thin and overtly weak. Without a limited ability to maintain proper blood flow, the function of various functions of the heart is interrupted. A person with alcoholic Cardiomyopathy may present a prevalence of the following symptoms:
- Heartbeat irregularities (cardiac arrhythmia)
- Dizziness, which often leads to fainting
- High diastolic blood pressure
- Cough with foamy mucus
- Reduced appetite
- Changes in urine color
- Adema (inflammation of legs, ankles and feet)
If you have a loved one struggling with alcohol use disorder and presenting the above mentioned symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention. Addressing the symptoms as soon as possible may help keep alcoholic Cardiomyopathy from progressing further into congestive heart failure or other irreversible health issues such as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).
b. Treatment and long-term outlook of living with an alcohol-induced heart problem
Chronic, long-term alcohol abuse is toxic to vital organs, and its toxic effects can be felt by way of heart failure, organ failure, or a host of other health issues, some more dangerous than others. The good news is, while alcohol-induced Cardiomyopathy is a very serious condition, it is preventable.
Individuals who drink regularly or consume too much than recommended 14 units per week have a higher risk of developing alcohol-induced Cardiomyopathy. Additionally, if someone already has a condition that causes irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) or have inherited heart rhythm conditions, excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking may double that risk.
Is there help for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder?
Left untreated, Cardiomyopathy can be life-threatening. The treatment goes without saying; stopping drinking can lead to improvement or even recovery for most people. However, some may find quitting challenging to do on their own. While it is imperative to stop alcohol intake entirely, the safest way for individuals struggling with substance use disorder is to attend a substance abuse treatment facility that offers medically-supervised detox programs.
Safely detoxing from alcohol is of the utmost priority. Therefore, if you’re struggling with alcoholism, consider entering a rehabilitation center that offers medications, supplements, and medical supervision especially, during the early stages of withdrawal symptoms.
Note that the more severe the heart problem is, the doctor may also prescribe additional treatment options if the damage to the heart results from excessive alcohol consumption. Therefore, adhering to the treatment plan and total abstinence from drinking are the two of the best options for recovery from alcohol-induced heart problems.
Now that you know how alcohol affects the heart, don’t leave it until it’s too late to seek help. A rehab program that focuses on addiction can offer the tools you need to stay sober. It can also provide a healthy platform where you can learn life-affirming habits, coping mechanisms for stress, and relapse prevention.