4 Effects of Alcohol on Your Heart

When speculating about the damage that alcohol does to the body, the kidneys are usually the first organ that comes to mind. Alcohol does greatly reduce kidney functionality, but there are more than 200 alcohol-induced diseases, and many of them primarily involve the heart. There are also additional ways that alcohol withdrawal can be harmful on the body. Here are just four of the countless ways alcohol can negatively affect the heart.

  1. Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy
  2. Cardiomyopathy is the medical term for disease of the heart muscle. This is a progressive disease with several different causes, but heavy drinking in particular has a toxic effect on the muscle cells of the heart. This is referred to as alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

    When a person develops cardiomyopathy, the heart becomes abnormally large due to the thickening of the muscle tissue. As the walls of the heart stiffen, it becomes difficult for blood to pump effectively. Blood backs up, causing further stress on the pulmonary system, and eventually the heart fails.

  3. Cardiac Arrhythmias
  4. Cardiac arrhythmia means the heart beats abnormally. There are two common forms of arrhythmias associated with alcoholism:

    Supraventricular tachycardia – Rapid heart rate originating from the atrioventricular node
    Atrial fibrillation – Rapid and irregular beating that gets progressively worse, usually associated with binge drinking.

    Both types of arrhythmias are potentially life-threatening and require medical treatment, especially if symptoms are persistent, recur for more than seven days or are permanent.

  5. Hypertension
  6. Alcohol abuse is one of the most common causes of secondary hypertension, or high blood pressure. Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure caused by an underlying medical condition, in this case, drinking alcohol in excess.

  7. High blood pressure has a long-term effect on:
    • Arteries
    • Heart
    • Endocrine System
    • Kidneys

    Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is sometimes called the silent killer because there are often no symptoms.
    Secondary high blood pressure will not respond to traditional treatments. The underlying cause, alcoholism, must be managed in order to lower blood pressure and prevent further damage to vital organs.

  8. Stroke
  9. The high blood pressure resulting from alcoholism increases the risk of different types of strokes, including an embolic stoke. The risks are magnified for those who already have an underlying circulatory problem, such as pre-existing heart disease.

    A study conducted by researchers at the Oulu University Central Hospital looked at 212 patients between the ages of 16 and 60 who had ischemic strokes, a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain. They found that heavy drinking was a contributing factor to clot formation, but those who quit drinking were at a significantly lower risk of developing further health issues.

    These are just four of the potentially life-threatening conditions that affect the heart and circulatory system as a result of long-term alcohol abuse. When you receive the help you need, you are not only helping your kidneys, you’re helping your heart and healing body as a whole.