Alcohol and Heart Disease

Healthy heart

Drinking red wine is often promoted as a way to improve your heart health. After all, some studies have shown that a glass a day may be associated with reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes and improving your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is considered the good type of cholesterol.

However, heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscle and increase your risk of cardiovascular complications, such as heart attacks. If you don’t currently imbibe, there is no need to start drinking.

But if you do drink, here’s what you need to know about how alcohol can affect your heart.  

Defining Moderate Drinking

Like most habits in life, moderation is critical when it comes to alcohol. According to the American Heart Association, moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals:

  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as bourbon, gin or vodka 
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer with about 5% alcohol content

 A drink a day may not cause serious heart problems, but if you regularly consume more alcohol than that, you can do serious damage to your cardiovascular system.

In fact, according to American Addiction Centers, Inc., heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack by 40%.

Heavy alcohol consumption is defined as: 

  • eight or more drinks in one week for women 
  • 15 or more drinks per week for men 

Excessive alcohol use may also include binge drinking, defined as: 

  • four or more alcoholic drinks in two hours for women 
  • five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours for men


Cardiovascular Consequences of Heavy Drinking

The effects of alcohol on your heart can be numerous if you drink too much, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, heavy drinking is associated with:

  • blood clots
  • cardiomyopathy
  • elevated cholesterol levels
  • hardened arteries 
  • sudden heart failure 

These effects typically develop as a consequence of chronic heavy drinking. But occasional binge drinking can be equally dangerous.

When you drink a high volume of alcohol in a short period of time, you may experience a rapid rise in blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. If you have a heart condition already, binge drinking may cause a heart attack to occur. Binge drinking can also result in a stroke.  

Still have questions about your heart health? Make an appointment with your primary care provider today.

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