Alcohol’s Effect on the Heart: Separating Fact from Fiction

Alcohol's Effect on the Heart

You’ve probably heard before that a cup of wine here and there is actually good for your heart, but how true is that statement? In general, we regard alcohol as a bad thing for our health, but in truth, there have been a lot of studies and debate over whether it can have positive benefits.

Today, we want to shed some light on this situation to help you figure out whether you are safe having that drink, or you should cut back. Either way, an alcohol tracking app can be a good starting point to understand your baseline.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the most common statements when it comes to drinking and your heart and determine whether they are accurate or not.

Alcohol and the Heart: True or False

Is all drinking bad for you, or can some drinks actually benefit your heart? Is it true that wine is good for you, or is that just a myth?

It’s time we separate fact from fiction and learn the truth about alcohol and heart health:

Any Amount of Drinking Is Bad for the Heart

False: The benefits of moderate drinking for your heart are still debated. Most people, however, don’t seem to struggle when mixing both.

The definition of moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and one or two for men. However, what constitutes a drink might be less than you think. A drink is defined as 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

So long as you are keeping yourself within these guidelines, you can enjoy your drinks and still sport good heart health.

However, this doesn’t apply to people that already suffer from a condition that causes arrhythmias, alcohol can increase your risk. In people with inherited heart rhythm conditions, this can be especially dangerous.

A first episode of arrhythmia can also be brought on by heavy alcohol consumption (binge drinking); once you’ve had this first episode, you’re at a greater risk for future episodes.

Drinking less, or stopping altogether, will drastically reduce your blood pressure (within a few days).

It is possible for people with alcoholic cardiomyopathy to improve or even recover after they stop drinking.

Excessive Drinking Contributes to Heart Disease

True: Several health conditions, including heart disease, are associated with heavy drinking. The consumption of excessive alcohol can result in high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. The long-term effects of high blood pressure (hypertension) include heart muscle strain and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which makes you more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

People who regularly drink and consume more than the lower-risk guidelines are likely to be advised to cut back or stop drinking entirely.

Excessive drinking can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the heart muscle.

Moreover, alcohol can contribute to obesity and associated health problems. In the long run, alcohol can be harmful because it causes excess calories and weight gain.

You already know what to do: If you choose to drink alcohol, drink moderately and don’t overdo it. Following this tip will lead to better heart health.

Drinking Alcohol Can Be Good for the Heart

True: It’s true that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower death rate from heart disease, according to some studies.

However, cause and effect cannot be determined from those studies. Sipping red wine may be associated with higher income, which is associated with more education and greater access to healthy foods. A heart-healthy diet may be more likely to be followed by red wine drinkers.

It has been suggested that moderate amounts of alcohol might raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, red wine may also protect the heart due to its antioxidant content, according to researchers.

It doesn’t take a cork to reap these benefits. Exercise can also raise HDL cholesterol levels, and fruits, vegetables, and grape juice are packed with antioxidants.

In general, the risks outweigh any potential benefits, and there are many when it comes to alcohol. For instance, alcohol impacts aging, sleep, mood, and weight gain.

You Shouldn’t Drink Alcohol After Surgery or If on Medication

True: During your hospital stay, your medications are adjusted to control your blood pressure, but this doesn’t take into consideration potential drinking.

If you start drinking once you go home, the effectiveness of your medications could be hampered. However, in the event that you begin drinking regularly again and your blood pressure changes, your GP can adjust your medications if you start drinking regularly again. That’s not an endorsement for drinking on medication though.

Generally, your doctor will usually tell you when you can begin drinking alcohol again. However, people who have undergone open heart surgery often feel depressed after they are discharged home, which can lead to less moderation when it comes to drinking alcohol.

It’s usually best not to start drinking alcohol again until this feeling passes since it can make these feelings worse and last longer.

In many cases, alcohol can make long-term medications less effective for those taking them.

You should speak to your doctor if you take diabetes medications or anticoagulants like warfarin since drinking alcohol can affect their effectiveness.

Drinking too much alcohol can also damage the liver over time.

For instance, some drugs that act directly on the liver, such as statins, can cause further damage when combined with alcohol. Whenever you drink, stay within low-risk limits.


Wrapping Up

Not all drinking is bad for the heart, and there is a lot of debate on whether drinking alcohol can actually be good. However, while there’s evidence and studies that support the fact that a bit of drinking can have its benefits, overall you are better off cutting back as much as possible.

That’s not to say you can’t drink at all, only that you should do so in moderation. If you are struggling with managing your drinks, consider using a drink-tracking app, such as Sunnyside, to make it easier.


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