When it comes to the effects of alcohol, the liver is the most talked about organ. However, this is not the only part of the body affected by alcohol. Alcohol can also affect your cardiovascular health. This effect is determined largely by the quantity of alcohol being consumed. In restricted amounts, alcohol can, in fact, be beneficial but in large amounts, it can be the cause of a number of heart health issues. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.
For women over the age of 45 years, drinking a small amount of certain types of alcohol such as red wine can be good for the heart. It protects the heart against damage to the arteries by increasing the good cholesterol levels. This prevents the narrowing of arteries by reducing the amount of fat deposited on the arterial walls. Good cholesterol also helps lower the level of bad cholesterol and fights against its ill effects.
Alcohol also reduces the ability of platelets to stick together by increasing the amount of fibrinogen produced by the liver. Thus, it prevents the formation of blood clots an in turn heart attacks caused by them.
The Not so Good
The ill effects of alcohol consumption overshadow its benefits. Drinking heavily over an extended period of time can increase your risk of heart disease. It increases blood pressure that can further trigger a stroke or heart attack. Alcoholism can also lead to weight gain that again causes an increase in blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol consumption also weakens the heart muscles. This condition is known as cardiomyopathy. As the heart muscles grow weaker, they cannot pump blood efficiently and the heart may fail and cause premature death.
Binge drinking can cause a condition known as Holiday Heart Syndrome. It is characterized by severe pain in the center of the chest, increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and breathlessness. It may make the person feel as though they were experiencing a heart attack. The term was coined as this condition was seen more commonly during the holiday season when people tend to drink more heavily.
Thus, if you want to enjoy a long, healthy life, avoid alcohol or drink in moderation. For women, this means one drink a day while for men; consumption should be limited to two drinks a day. If you have an existing heart condition or a history of strokes, alcohol should be avoided completely.