Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Cardiac Health
While there may be some benefits from light to moderate drinking of alcohol in certain individuals, the effects of alcohol abuse on cardiac health generally, far outweigh those benefits.
Benefits of Light to Moderate Drinking
Several factors are known to contribute to coronary artery disease including age, high blood pressure, diet, or fat build up in the arteries. Excessive fat in the blood vessels can clog the arteries and reduce blood supply to the heart. This makes it easier for blood clots to form which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Light to moderate drinking of alcohol can help to maintain proper blood pressure by inhibiting or reducing the fat build up, dissolving blood clots, and raising the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood to prevent or ward off disease.
These benefits do not apply to some people taking certain medications or who have existing medical conditions and beginning to drink for the health benefits is discouraged.
Risks of Alcohol Abuse on Cardiac Health
Whether it’s drinking heavily over a long period of time or drinking too much on a single occasion, effects of alcohol abuse on cardiac health can be life threatening. There is also an increased risk of heart problems when one repeatedly withdraws from alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,” Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in Western societies, accounting for about 25 percent of all deaths.”
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease develops when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients become diseased or damaged. Alcohol abuse contributes to CAD in multiple ways including:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure – Alcohol triggers certain stress hormones that cause constrictions of blood flow by hardening and thickening these blood vessels.
- High blood cholesterol levels – Alcohol can damage liver functions, raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the blood, and decrease HDL (good cholesterol) levels. High cholesterol increases the risk of plaque formations and atherosclerosis.
- Buildup of cellular waste – Alcohol abuse can increase the risk of cellular waste buildups and inflammation which can damage the blood vessels and heart.
Alcohol increases the risks of stroke by causing blood clots and preventing blood flow, known as ischemic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood accumulates in the brain and spaces surrounding it.
Long term heavy drinking can cause a weakening of the heart muscles. The heart droops and cannot contract enough to supply the necessary blood to other organs causing breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, and can lead to heart failure.
Alcohol abuse affects how the heart beats and damages the heart muscle cells. This can lead to blood collecting and clotting or the heart does not fill with enough blood between beats to send to the rest of the body and can result in cardiac arrest or sudden death.