Drinking alcohol can lead to a long-term form of irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation was an underlying cause of death in over 25,000 U.S. deaths in 2018.
The effects of alcohol on the heart may be felt right away. It is commonly known that alcohol intake can cause changes in heart rate. These changes are sometimes called “holiday heart syndrome” by non-medical professionals.
Alcohol & The Risk Of Heart Arrhythmia
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a form of irregular heartbeat where the chambers of the heart do not beat in time. Atrial fibrillation reduces blood flow and increases blood pressure, which can both lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other problems.
Alcohol and ethanol can cause hypertension, or high blood pressure, by constricting blood vessels and affecting your nervous system in other ways. High blood pressure is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Even moderate alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of AFib.
The risk of AFib tends to go up if you drink more, and people who practice heavy drinking or regular binge drinking are often at the most risk. Patients who already have heart arrhythmias are at an even higher risk when they drink any amount of alcohol.
Other Alcohol-Related Heart Problems That Include Arrhythmia
Alcohol affects your cardiovascular system and your nervous system. Changes to these areas can affect your heart health in a number of ways, many of which can include irregular heartbeats.
When alcohol use is involved, a heart rhythm disorder like atrial fibrillation may be a sign of a more serious condition. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a serious heart condition where alcohol and ethanol become toxic to the heart muscle itself.
Cardiomyopathy can sometimes be treated if the patient stops drinking alcohol. Since chronic alcohol abuse can lead to cardiomyopathy, it can be difficult for these patients to stop drinking even if it is good for their health.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy can lead to irregular heartbeats, heart failure, heart attacks, and death.
Cardiovascular Disease/Heart Disease
It is commonly believed that moderate drinking can actually reduce your risk of heart disease, while heavy drinking can increase your cardiovascular risk. The idea that one glass of wine a day can lead to heart health benefits is commonly passed around in many circles.
Alcohol can affect cholesterol levels in your bloodstream. Some types of cholesterol can reduce blood clotting and improve blood flow, while other types can hurt these areas. Alcohol is thought to affect both cholesterol levels, though how it does so is still unknown.
Moderate drinking is linked to improved heart health in both past and recent studies.
However, more evidence has come out in recent years to suggest that any amount of alcohol can be bad for your heart, including the increased risk for AFib. More research may be needed to study this relationship.
Avoiding Alcohol-Induced Heart Problems
For patients with a preexisting cardiac arrhythmia, staying away from alcohol can help you avoid a flare-up. Any amount of alcohol can immediately affect the heart, which can be dangerous for people with heart conditions.
Reducing your alcohol intake can help reduce your risk of heart conditions, and can even lead to fewer arrhythmias in patients who have a heart condition. If you drink alcohol regularly and you are worried about your health, you may want professional help to quit.
To find out if one of our alcohol treatment programs is right for you, contact our helpline today.