Are you joining thousands of people cutting back on alcohol this month? Dry January isn’t just a great opportunity to reflect on our drinking habits, but also to understand the impact alcohol has on our heart health.
In this blog, we explore how drinking impacts the health of our heart, and the benefits of cutting back.
What effects does drinking have on heart health?
Drinking alcohol can have both positive and negative effects on heart health. In moderate amounts, certain types can be beneficial to heart health as it can raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and help prevent blood clots. However, excessive drinking can have the opposite effect and can significantly increase the risk of heart disease.
Here are some of the ways that drinking can affect heart health:
High blood pressure: Heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Long-term, excessive drinking can cause blood vessels to become stiff and damaged, making it harder for blood to flow through them.
Cardiomyopathy: Excessive drinking can cause cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thickened and weakened. This can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood effectively, leading to heart failure.
Arrhythmias: Drinking too much alcohol can cause changes in the electrical activity of the heart, leading to irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias can be serious and even life-threatening.
Heart attack and stroke: Heavy drinking increases the risk of heart attack and stroke by damaging blood vessels and making blood more likely to clot.
Metabolic syndrome: Excessive alcohol intake is associated with the development of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Treatment for alcohol related heart problems
Treatment for heart problems caused by alcohol can vary depending on the specific condition and the severity of the problem. Some common treatments include:
- Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications to help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and prevent blood clots. These may include ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and statins.
- Lifestyle changes: Quitting alcohol or cutting down significantly, eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and quitting smoking can all help improve heart health.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat heart problems caused by alcohol. This can include procedures such as angioplasty, which uses a small balloon to open up blocked blood vessels, or coronary artery bypass surgery, which reroutes blood around blocked vessels.
- Rehabilitation and therapy: Rehabilitation and therapy can help the individual to address the underlying psychological and emotional issues that may have contributed to their excessive drinking.
It’s important to note that the earlier the diagnosis and the treatment, the better the outcome will be. It’s also important to seek professional help from a doctor or a specialist if excessive drinking is a problem.