Alcohol Consumption and Heart Health

Most people would correctly guess that excessive drinking negatively impacts heart health. Heavy drinking has many health repercussions, but what about light to moderate drinking? While moderate drinking is not a large health risk for many people, there are some whose heart conditions should cause them to stop drinking or consult their doctor to discuss their risk. 

How does alcohol affect the heart?

Alcohol use can impact a host of risk factors for heart health, and the risk increases the more alcohol is consumed. Alcohol can raise triglycerides. If higher triglycerides are combined with high cholesterol, it can cause fatty buildup in artery walls, which raises the risk of heart attack or stroke. Drinking can lead to high blood pressure and obesity, both risk factors for many heart diseases and conditions. 

In the short term, binge drinking can raise your risk for atrial fibrillation. Heavy drinking, especially over time, can have a serious impact on your heart health. Excessive drinking increases the likelihood of heart rhythm issues and cardiomyopathy, which makes it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Over time, it can prematurely age your arteries. 

Although some studies suggest light to moderate amounts of red wine may have protective benefits for those at risk for heart disease, the relationship is unclear. Research shows some correlation, but it has not shown a cause-and-effect relationship. In other words, there could have been other factors involved, such as the lifestyle of the study participants, that accounted for the benefit. The group who drank moderate amounts of red wine could have been more fit in general or lived a healthier lifestyle overall. While research shows that a small amount of wine is not bad for many people’s heart health, it does not suggest a new habit should be formed for the heart health benefits. 

Should people with certain conditions avoid alcohol?

For most people, light to moderate alcohol use does not negatively impact their heart health. But some conditions do cause concern for alcohol use. Those who regularly take aspirin should be cautious, as alcohol use with aspirin increases the risk for stomach problems. Alcohol can interfere with or react with many medications, so always ask your doctor or pharmacist about any over-the-counter or prescription medications and potential interactions.

Individuals who already have conditions for which heavy drinking raises the risk should avoid alcohol or consult their doctor before consuming alcohol. Alcohol use may adversely affect people with cardiomyopathy, any form of irregular heart rhythm, uncontrolled high blood pressure, high triglycerides, heart failure, diabetes, or a history of strokes.

If you have questions about how alcohol use may affect your heart condition, contact Oklahoma Heart Hospital to schedule a visit to discuss your heart health.