Substance Use

Is Alcohol Bad For Your Heart? Learn About The Risks

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Drinking alcohol can impact heart health in both beneficial and harmful ways, influenced by how much is consumed, personal traits, and habits of consumption. Moderate drinking, especially red wine, due to its antioxidants and the ability to boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—often called “good” cholesterol—may offer cardiovascular advantages. However, indulging too much or frequently can lead to a higher likelihood of developing heart issues. (1

Beyond these direct impacts, drinking heavy amounts of alcohol can also lead to other conditions that put the heart at risk—like obesity, diabetes, and liver problems—making cardiovascular issues even more likely. 

Although drinking alcohol in moderation could potentially have some benefits for heart health, going overboard with excessive or heavy consumption can seriously endanger not only the heart but also overall health. This only illuminates the critical need for balance and being mindful of how much alcohol one consumes.

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Alcohol and Heart Effects

Excessive alcohol consumption can have serious consequences for your heart health. There is a direct link between alcohol and an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death. (1)

Alcohol is a popular substance enjoyed by many, but it can be hard to know how much alcohol is too much. While moderate drinking, like a daily glass of wine, may benefit cardiovascular health, it’s essential to understand the risk factors associated with excessive or binge drinking.

How Much Does Alcohol Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?

It is well known that too much alcohol is detrimental to one’s health, but what are the effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), abusing alcohol through excessive alcohol intake or heavy drinking can lead to severe cardiovascular complications

These include:

  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Arrhythmia
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke (2

To minimize the dangers associated with high levels of alcohol consumption, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 suggest that adults of legal age can choose to abstain from drinking or exercise moderation when consuming alcoholic beverages. Men should limit their intake to two drinks per day, and women should only consume a maximum of one drink a day. (3

While the Guidelines do not suggest that those who don’t drink alcohol should begin for any reason, they emphasize that if legal-age adults choose to consume alcoholic beverages, moderation is best.

People who should abstain from alcohol are:

  • Women who are or who might be pregnant
  • People with health conditions like liver disease, some heart problems, and a family history of alcoholism
  • People taking medications that interact negatively with alcohol
  • People who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder or find it challenging to manage their alcohol consumption

Does Drinking Alcohol Increase Risk of Heart Attack?

There is no question that consuming alcohol can contribute to coronary heart disease.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, regular excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, and heart attack. (4

According to a further study published in the National Library of Medicine, another risk of heavy drinking is holiday heart syndrome, which is a widespread source of cardiovascular ailments, particularly in the United States. (5

It involves sudden changes in heart rate brought on by heavy alcohol consumption in individuals with no evidence of underlying cardiac issues.

Can Alcohol Permanently Damage Your Heart?

Yes, alcohol’s effects can permanently damage your heart. This can lead to more serious health problems, like other heart conditions.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), studies have proven that long-term, excessive alcohol consumption can weaken heart muscle tissue and increase the risk of a dangerous disorder known as alcohol-associated cardiomyopathy. (6

Alcohol-related heart disease can be a serious health concern. If left undetected and untreated, the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health effects can lead to cardiac complications and an overall decrease in quality of life.

According to MedlinePlus, depending on the form of heart disease, one might not even experience any symptoms initially. In some cases, it’s only until a complication like a cardiac arrest that you may become aware of your condition. (7

Therefore, it is always important to be mindful of potential signs and seek medical attention. Paying close attention to your body’s signals should help you identify any unusual symptoms that may be present due to alcohol-related heart disease.

Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol While Taking Heart Medication?

According to NIAAA, drinking while taking some anticoagulants and cardiovascular medications causes problems that affect safety such as: (8

These medications include:

1. Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)

Warfarin is an anticoagulant drug that prevents blood clotting events such as heart attack and stroke. Alcohol use increases the risk of major bleeding for individuals taking warfarin, particularly those who have been on the medication for at least one year or possess genetic variants affecting how their body metabolizes it. (9)

Patients with heavy drinking habits should undergo screening to assess if they need additional precautions before taking Warfarin.

2. Verapamil (Verelan, Calan)

Verapamil is a commonly prescribed calcium channel antagonist used to treat arrhythmia, hypertension, and angina. However, if combined with alcohol consumption, this medication can lead to prolonged high blood alcohol concentration due to its inhibitory effects on ethanol metabolism. (10)

3. Propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran, Hemangeol)

Propranolol is a beta blocker frequently prescribed to manage hypertension of blood vessels and other cardiac conditions. (11)

However, when alcohol is consumed in conjunction with propranolol, it may raise plasma levels of the medication and cause adverse side effects like dizziness and fainting, according to the American Heart Association.

Furthermore, acute drinking levels can cause a decline in blood pressure that could potentially compound the already-lowering effect of propranolol on your blood pressure.

What Are the Signs of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse can often be challenging to recognize, but there are several signs that someone may be struggling with alcohol consumption, including:

  • Changes in mood, such as increased irritability or aggressiveness
  • Physical symptoms like headaches and dizziness
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Generally struggling to keep up with day-to-day obligations

If alcohol consumption starts giving a person more pleasure or takes higher priority than other activities, such as spending time with those closest to them, it could mean they’re depending on drinking for happiness.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as a valuable resource, suggesting that women should consume no more than one standard drink per day and men up to two drinks within the same timeframe.

It’s important to note what constitutes a “standard” drink, approximately:

  • 14 grams of pure alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka or whiskey (12)

Exceeding these recommended amounts regularly can lead to several health issues beyond immediate effects, such as hangovers or intoxication. Long-term overconsumption increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as liver disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. It can exacerbate mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. (13)

Moreover, heavy drinking impacts social relationships and job performance and may result in legal problems. Recognizing personal limits and staying informed about how much is too much help individuals make healthier choices regarding their alcohol intake., thereby safeguarding both physical and emotional well-being.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Alcohol?

Moderate alcohol consumption can sometimes have health benefits. A study published in the National Library of Medicine shows that red wine can increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Red wine also contains antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation, thus lowering the risk of certain diseases. (14

Lower risk levels of drinking can also provide stress relief as well as reduce anxiety and stimulate positive emotions like relaxation and contentment. However, alcoholic drinks create more problems than they solve, with the health risks far outweighing the benefits.

Don’t Let Alcohol Affect Your Heart Health

Alcohol can increase the likelihood of developing cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle). Moreover, drinking too much can worsen existing conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol.

Zinnia Health proudly offers 24/7 admissions to alcohol detox services and outpatient programs. Taking on the challenge of addiction can be overwhelming. If you’re looking for healthcare support on your path to healing, don’t wait any longer. Call us today at (855) 430-9439.


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Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
Why call us? Why call us