Is Alcohol Good For Your Heart?

Heart disease is rampant in the United States, with approximately 1 in every 12 of Americans suffering from it. Research has proven that too much alcohol is bad for your heart while some alcohol is actually beneficial. Measuring alcohol units correctly can help you from going over what is deemed a "moderate" level of alcohol per day. Wine, liquor, and beer have varying levels of alcohol, and therefore are measured accordingly.  For the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, alcohol consumption in moderation is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or 12 ounces of beer. Going above this level is considered over-moderation.

Heart Benefits from Drinking

Alcohol good or bad

Moderate levels of alcohol in the body will help in keeping blood pressure in check.

The benefits of alcohol in moderation, two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for non-pregnant women, include raising the levels of good cholesterol and reducing fat build-up in heart arteries. Good cholesterol, known as HDL cholesterol, being raised in the body will help in warding off blood clots and heart disease. Some studies suggest that moderate levels of alcohol in the body will help in keeping blood pressure in check. However, those that are pregnant, nursing, or have certain medical conditions that require medication may not be ones that benefit from alcohol consumption. Always ask a medical professional whether alcohol consumption should be ruled out entirely in your case.

Heart Risks from Drinking

There are five risks associated with drinking for heart difficulties, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). These are alcoholic cardiomyopathy, stroke, atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and hypertension. While there are other conditions and syndromes that alcohol can affect, these are the risks for the heart itself.

Alcohol Cardiomyopathy

"Weakening heart muscle from long-term drinking is called alcoholic cardiomyopathy."Weakening heart muscle from long-term drinking is called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. It damages organs and surrounding tissues by reducing blood flow. Signs of this condition include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, breathing issues or shortness of breath, and swollen feet and legs. Alcohol cardiomyopathy may lead to heart failure.

Strokes

80 percent of strokes are ischemic, where a blood clot prevents blood going to the brain. Others are hemorrhagic strokes, where blood pools in the brain. Both can occur from drinking with the NIAAA accounting for 56 percent increase in risk. Those who binge drink are even more at risk, adding 39 percent to their already high chances. Strokes affect the entire body.

Atrial Fibrillation

Arrhythmias are abnormalities in heartbeats and rhythm. In atrial fibrillation, the atrial chamber of the heart does not contract. It may shudder weakly but blood can still collect and clot in this upper chamber of the heart. One of these clots may travel through the vessels of the heart and lodge in the brain or lungs.  Strokes come from blood clots in the brain while embolisms occur when blood clots reach the lung.

Ventricular Tachycardia

"Electrical impulses that normally trigger heart contractions are put into overdrive with drinking."Electrical impulses that normally trigger heart contractions are put into overdrive with drinking. It occurs in the ventricular, or lower, chamber of the heart. These electrical signals make for a too-fast heartbeat and can make a person lightheaded or dizzy. Left without treatment, it can lead to cardiac arrest and even death. There is an increased risk of this particular heart issue when someone who normally does not drink suddenly over drinks. It is this commonly scene reason that dubs it the "holiday heart syndrome".

Hypertension

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. While studies have revealed that moderate levels of alcohol can lower blood pressure, overdoing it can lead to high blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured as the pressure in the veins and arteries in your heart. If blood vessels become less flexible or stiffen, it can be hypertensive. Drinking high amounts of alcohol, or binge drinking, can release stress hormones. These hormones can then constrict the blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure inside the heart.  Long-term high blood pressure can damage the heart and the vessels.

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