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  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM) is a type of heart disease that stems from excessive alcohol use. Drinking more than the suggested amount of alcohol can lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy and a range of other health issues.

    Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a type of dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when your heart’s main pumping chamber (the left ventricle) becomes enlarged.

    This usually occurs in those who suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). If left untreated, alcohol cardiomyopathy can cause arrhythmias and even lead to congestive heart failure. 

    Causes Of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

    The primary cause of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is chronic alcohol abuse. The effects of alcohol play an important role in how alcoholic cardiomyopathy is developed. 

    For instance, drinking alcohol can have a toxic effect on your heart which can lead to a change in cardiac function and ventricular function. When your heart’s ability to pump blood is affected, the lack of blood flow may cause issues throughout your entire body.

    Those who participate in binge drinking or drink excessively are more likely to develop alcoholic cardiomyopathy than the general population. 

    Symptoms Of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

    The symptoms of alcohol cardiomyopathy may include:

    • myocardial dysfunction
    • cardiac abnormalities
    • diastolic dysfunction
    • cardiac dysfunction
    • ​systolic dysfunction

    Other negative effects of alcohol abuse can include:

    • increased blood pressure
    • weakened immune system
    • cancer
    • liver disease
    • heart disease
    • fibrosis
    • ​cirrhosis
    • cardiovascular disease
    • alcohol poisoning
    • impairment

    Preventing Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

    The biggest factor in preventing alcohol cardiomyopathy is decreasing your alcohol consumption. By stopping heavy drinking or alcohol use entirely, or only drinking in moderation, you can prevent numerous health problems. 

    In fact, the American Heart Association suggests limiting your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Drinking in moderation can reduce the likelihood of you developing diabetes, heart failure, and stroke. 

    To help prevent heart disease, be sure to monitor your alcohol use and get plenty of exercises. 

    Alcohol Addiction Treatment

    If you have a hard time quitting all alcohol use, you may be recommended to a substance abuse treatment program. Professional treatment programs likely use a combination of therapy, medication, and peer support to address alcohol abuse.

    Diagnosing & Treating Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

    Those who develop heart disease or other issues brought on by alcohol can receive various types of treatment. First, doctors will need to determine if you’re suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy. 

    Ultrasound Of The Heart

    To uncover the issues surrounding your heart, a doctor may evaluate your heart by echocardiography which can tell if you have decreased ejection fraction. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can be used to check the electric signals that control your heartbeat.


    Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you take diuretics which help you remove salt and water from your body through urination. 

    Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE inhibitors) can also be of use, as they help to lower blood pressure.

    Since symptoms of alcoholic cardiomyopathy can be similar to idiopathic cardiomyopathy, your doctor will likely want to get to the root of the problem. They may wish to do a biopsy of the left ventricle. 

    To learn about our treatment options for alcohol use disorder, please connect with us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    American Heart Association - Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol Use and Your Health
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Cardiomyopathy
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use
    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - Cardiomyopathy
    Springer Open Choice - Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on July 3, 2022
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