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London Heart

Alcohol and heart disease: How are they related?

Alcohol is not dangerous for the heart in moderation. But drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Excessive alcohol consumption can give you high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This may lead to cardiovascular disease, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

In the long term, drinking heavily can stretch the heart, causing cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking can increase risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat.

Read on as we explore the impact of alcohol on the heart and what to do if you are worried about your heart health.

Alcohol induced cardiomyopathy

Alcohol induced cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that is caused by heavy drinking over a long period. According to NHS guidelines, heavy drinking is drinking more than 14 units of alcohol each week.

Alcohol induced cardiomyopathy is when the toxicity of alcohol causes the heart muscle to weaken and stretch. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around your body.

When the heart can’t pump blood properly, blood pools in the heart and the heart starts to stretch. When the body doesn’t get enough blood, it can’t carry out major functions properly.

The heart becomes thinner and larger and, eventually, alcohol induced cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.

Symptoms of alcohol induced cardiomyopathy include:

  • Swollen ankles, feet and legs
  • Breathlessness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular, rapid heartbeat
  • Frothy, pink mucus when you cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Less frequent urination
  • Need to urinate at night

These symptoms are often caused by heart failure. So, if a person has these symptoms, it is important that they get urgent medical attention.

Binge drinking and atrial fibrillation

Binge drinking is not good for your heart. It can cause heart rhythm problems in people who are otherwise healthy.

The NHS classifies binge drinking as drinking more than 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men or 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women.

Sometimes known as holiday heart syndrome, drinking excessively over a short period can cause a rapid heartbeat and atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is when problems with the heart’s electrical activity cause an irregular heartbeat. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:

People who experience atrial fibrillation have a greater risk of having a stroke. So, if you have the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, getting a proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

London Heart clinic can help. Get in touch today to speak to a specialist.

Is red wine healthy?

Small amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on your heart health, according to some research.

Of all the alcoholic drinks, red wine is considered the most healthy. Red wine contains antioxidants which may help to protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.

A 2019 research review links drinking red wine with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. However, research to date does not prove a cause-effect relationship.

People who drink red wine may have other healthy habits, for example eating healthily and not smoking.

So, we can’t say conclusively whether it is red wine itself that reduces heart disease risk, or other related factors. More research is needed.

The best we can say is that, as part of a mediterranean diet, red wine may have some heart health benefits. It is a healthier choice than other alcohol.

Heart screening

If you have any concerns that drinking may be affecting your heart health, we can help. London Heart Clinic is led by Dr Syed Ahsan, an award-winning cardiologist and heart rhythm specialist.

We offer heart screening to help detect heart disease at its earliest possible stage. And, if we find any problems, we will create a tailored treatment plan to improve your heart health.

Put your heart health first, and get in touch. Book an appointment today.