How Alcohol Affects Your Heart: Understanding The Science Behind It



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The rhythmic, reliable pumping of your heart brings life to your body as it supplies blood, nutrients and oxygen throughout your system. It is important to understand that alcohol can profoundly impact this circulatory system whether you are a social drinker or dealing with alcohol addiction

In fact, studies show, alcohol is right up there, along with tobacco use, as the most dangerous habit that injures the heart. But what is it about alcohol —a favorite pick-me-up and nightcap — that makes it so dangerous to the heart? Find out here.

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What Is Alcohol?

Most of us drink alcohol without actually knowing what it is. Strictly speaking, alcohol or ethanol is just a component of  many drinks . 

It’s formed when the sugars in grains, fruits, and vegetables are fermented by yeast.So, for instance, the alcohol in wine comes from fermented grapes, while the alcohol in vodka comes from fermented potatoes. 

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is actually considered a drug because of its habit-forming and mind-altering properties.

Throughout the years, various studies have proven that alcohol can, in fact, affect a person’s health in negative ways. Constant, chronic, and excessive alcohol consumption has detrimental effects on a person’s health. 

Research proves that alcohol impacts aging, memory, energy levels, weight, and so much more. Moreover, alcohol has long been recognized as a risk factor for heart disease. Fortunately, drinking in moderation can help significantly reduce the odds of these potential health risks.

How Alcohol Affects The Heart

The potential heart-related health risks of alcohol are overwhelming. Supported by decades of research, these claims are accepted today as gospel truth among doctors and medical professionals. Some adverse effects of alcohol consumption on heart health include:

Increased Heart Rate

A 2020 meta-analysis attempted to unravel whether alcohol consumption could increase a person’s heart rate. They found that a single drink could raise heart rate by up to five added beats for every minute over six hours. Dial up the intake to two drinks, and the person could expect an increase of 13 added beats for every minute sustained for over 24 hours.

Undeniably, alcohol consumption makes your heart work faster. But why is that necessarily a bad thing? According to studies, an abnormally fast heart rate can reduce the efficiency of blood distribution. In effect, this can reduce the amount of nutrients and oxygen that your body receives.

Increased Blood Pressure

Blood pressure measures the force of your blood as it presses against the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps it. Increased blood pressure is associated with all various health risks, including heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

When you drink alcohol, it causes the blood vessels to constrict or tighten. As the passageways narrow, blood is forced through at a higher pressure. 

Over time, this increased pressure can decrease the elasticity of your blood vessels. This affects the efficiency of  oxygen distribution and can even damage the heart as it needs to work harder to push blood through your system.

Weakened Heart Musculature

Your heart muscles contract and relax in a rhythmic pattern to send oxygen and nutrients across your body. Some sources claim that the heart beats an average of 35,000,000 times a year. So it’s no surprise that anything that gets in the way of proper functioning inevitably weakens this hardworking group of muscles.

Alcohol consumption can increase heart rate and blood pressure and weaken heart muscles. As the heart beats faster with greater resistance, it’s forced to work harder. Unfortunately, this  increased effort can only go on for so long before the heart gives up.

Cardiovascular Diseases Linked To Alcohol Consumption

Heavy drinking can take a toll on the human body. It has been linked to the following conditions:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral arterial disease

While it would be ideal to stop the consumption of alcohol altogether  to support heart health, drinking in moderation can also significantly reduce the risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, limiting alcohol intake to one a day for women and two a day for men should help curb the potential for heart disease.

Can Alcohol Be Good For The Heart?

You’ve heard these claims before -– a glass of wine can support heart health. Some studies try to explore the potential positive connection between alcohol and heart health. One publication concluded that certain components in wine have cardioprotective abilities, especially when taken in moderation.

As expected, however, these claims have been met with passionate opposition. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there’s not enough data to confirm whether it’s just red wine that contributes to heart health.

Based on their logic, people with access to red wine also probably have access to higher-quality food. They even speculate that these people have a better quality of life and, thus, better heart health.

More importantly, experts state that a lot of the alleged benefits of drinking red wine can be achieved with a healthy balanced diet, exercise, and proper sleeping habits. So the marginal improvements that wine has on heart health might not be enough reason to pop a cork.

How To Incorporate Alcohol Into Your Lifestyle the Right Way

No one wants to have to deal with heart disease as they age If you want to balance out your alcohol intake to ensure a healthy and disease-free life.Here are some tips you can try:

  • Drink in moderation. One to two drinks a day should be your designated limit. Use an alcohol tracking app to help you.
  • Stay hydrated. According to experts, a lot of the negative effects of alcohol link to its diuretic properties.
  • Go on a routine cleanse. Dedicate a week or two every month to staying alcohol-free.
  • Consider non-alcoholic alternatives when you’re out with friends.
  • Use apps like Sunnyside to help moderate your intake in easy, actionable ways.

Everything in Moderation

As the old adage goes, too much of anything can be bad. If cutting alcohol out of your diet entirely seems a little drastic, drink in moderation. This can help reduce its effects on your heart while you still get to relish a soothing respite without putting your heart at risk.

 Adapting habits that improve heart health can also significantly minimize the risk of alcohol-related disease so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

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