We’ve all heard the common saying “Too much of anything is bad for you.” The same rule of thumb stands true even for alcohol consumption. Although many studies reveal that moderate consumption of alcohol may actually boost your heart’s health, this may not be the case if you suffer from heart ailments. Let’s find out exactly what alcohol means for you and your heart.
What Is Alcohol?
Although alcohol is considered to be a “happy” drink, medically, it is in fact scheduled as a depressant drug. What does this mean? Essentially, it slows down your body's locomotive and speech functions; resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, and an inability to react quickly. With regards to the effects on the mind, alcohol distorts judgement and reduces the capacity for rational thinking.
Drinking alcohol in very large quantities at once can slow your heart rate and bring your breathing to a dangerously low level. If you drink regularly, you may feel that you are unaffected by alcohol, but this usually means that you’ve developed a high tolerance for it. The good news is that minimizing your alcohol intake will slowly restore your body’s natural mechanisms.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?
Regular consumption of high quantities of alcohol has been linked to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Over time, hypertension puts a strain on the heart muscles, resulting in cardiovascular disease. Drinking too much alcohol also raises the levels of certain blood triglycerides, putting you at a very high risk of a heart attack or stroke.
How Much Is Too Much?
Although red wine and beer are usually considered to be good for the heart, one must, however, stay within the prescribed limits. The recommended intake for both, men and women, is not more than 14 units per week. It is best to spread this evenly throughout the week, over 3 days or more.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause serious health conditions such as cardiomyopathy; a condition where the heart muscles are damaged and can’t function effectively and arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
Does Alcohol Have Any Benefits?
When it comes to alcohol consumption, the risks outweigh the benefits. One study found that the only age group that actually benefited from alcohol consumption was that of women over the age of 55, but even then, only at low levels of drinking. If you are a teetotaler and you’re considering alcohol only for the possible health benefits, then you should refrain from doing so.
Can I Drink Alcohol If I Have a Heart Condition?
If you are already suffering from arrhythmias, then alcohol will increase that risk. On the other hand, heavy drinking is more likely to bring on the first episode of arrhythmia, putting you at an increased risk for further episodes. Once you do cut back on alcohol consumption, you will see a rapid improvement in your blood pressure. If you suffer from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, stopping alcohol intake can lead to improvement or maybe even a full recovery.
When Can I Start Drinking Alcohol After Heart Surgery?
After heart surgery, your medications are adjusted to control your blood pressure. If you start drinking post-surgery, this will alter your blood pressure and your doctor may have to change your medications accordingly.
He or she will advise you when it is safe to start drinking again and might even ask you to avoid alcohol completely as it could unnecessarily aggravate your symptoms.
Does Alcohol Interact With Heart Medications?
The short answer is yes! For people on long-term prescriptions, alcohol can make medicines less effective. Along with heart medications, if you also take medicines for diabetes, drinking alcohol can affect the way the drugs work on your body. If you are unsure about the potential effects of alcohol, then speak to your doctor and clear your doubts.