Alcohol Drinking – How Much is Too Much for your Heart
The vast majority of people believe that drinking alcohol is the key to having a good time. Most even feel it’s the key to the enjoyment of life. What’s more, some believe drinking alcohol is good for our heart too. Read on to find some hard facts about the connection between drinking alcohol and heart’s health.
Most people don’t take alcohol as a drug. Sadly, it is! Addiction to excessive alcohol drinking has destroyed more lives, broken more families and caused more diseases than any drug. Moreover, long-term excessive alcohol drinking poses greater risks to the heart. To know more, let’s find out what our heart does first.
The Heart Story
Our heart is a pump that moves blood around our entire body. It carries away waste products and unwanted carbon dioxide, distributing oxygen and nutrients to all the parts of our body. This pumping system does not work properly when our heart, blood vessels and the arteries around it are damaged. Our doctors call all such conditions (all types of diseases that affect heart or blood vessels) collectively as Cardiovascular Disease, arrhythmia, Coronary Heart Disease (clogged arteries) is the most common type of heart disease that may cause a Heart Attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
Our heart needs oxygen to keep pumping. A heart attack occurs when the artery supplying oxygen to the heart, is reduced or is blocked due to the gradual build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries. Without the supply of oxygen, the heart cannot pump properly and, in some cases, it effectively stops beating altogether leading to sudden death from Heart Attack.
Excessive Drinking and Heart Attack – The Connection
There is a strong link between heart health and alcohol. Many articles online suggest that moderate alcohol consumption helps protect the heart from diseases. But, here’s the catch! Doctors are not sure if the health effects come from the alcohol or from other good lifestyle choices that the moderate drinkers make. However, they are sure that drinking heavily may have a direct poisonous effect on our hearts.
Excessive drinking increases the chances of having a heart attack. Several studies suggest that apart from other risk factors like smoking or being overweight, excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of heart attacks even in people who do not have a family history of heart disease.
Drinking too much, too often (more than three servings a day) can hurt your heart and lead to diseases of the heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). In addition, regular or high alcohol use can raise the levels of fat in the blood resulting in clogged arteries leading to a Heart Attack. That’s true, as people habituated to heavy drinking expose themselves to several heart disease risks, including obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of blood-borne fat (triglyceride).
Types of Alcohol Drinking Linked to Heart Attack
Binge Drinking: Binge drinking is drinking excessive alcohol in a very short period of time. Most of the urban youngsters in India think binge drinking is trendy. Quick, excessive drinking (5 or more drinks at a time for men and 4 or more for women) can force these drinkers to become intoxicated rapidly. A lot of alcohol consumed all at once can raise blood pressure quickly, and this can trigger a heart attack. A study says that binge drinking (six or more cocktails in an evening), increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke for seven days after the event.
Heavy Drinking: Heavy drinking can be much worse than binge drinking. The negative effects of heavy drinking are immediate and long-lasting. It heightens the risk of heart attack and stroke within hours of consumption. Consuming 15 or more drinks per week for men, and eight drinks for women is considered heavy drinking. Heavy drinking triggers the release of certain hormones that cause constriction of blood vessels thus increasing the blood pressure. This can affect the heart adversely. Drinking too much has long been associated with multiple cardiovascular problems, such as angina, ventricular-fibrillation , abnormal heartbeat and heart failure. Alcohol overindulgence can also lead to an irregular heartbeat.
How Much is Too Much
There are many studies from other countries that define moderate drinking as up to three for women and four drinks for men in a day. However, a study* published in the journal, Alcohol says that Indians who consumed more than 100 milliliters (three pegs) of alcohol a day have 22 percent higher risk of heart disease and death. Drinking below 100 milliliters may give some benefit, but it does not mean we should drink to get this benefit. There can be other alternate means that can be much more beneficial.
Is Moderate Drinking a Better Choice?
While some studies say that drinking occasionally, in moderation may be good or may lower our risk of heart disease, avoiding alcohol is best. It is not a good idea to start drinking alcohol in an effort to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Simply put, it’s just not worth it! It’s better not to drink at all. Alcohol’s potential small benefits for our heart outweigh the increased risks of developing other very serious illnesses including cancer or liver disease. There are other healthy and safer ways like regular exercise, healthy diet, etc. to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
And… if you are a moderate drinker, make sure to get a healthy heart check up periodically. Find out if any local healthcare provider near you is offering a Comprehensive Healthy Heart Package and go for it now.