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Excessive Drinking May Lead to Heart Attack
- Moderate drinking can help promote heart health by increasing good HDL cholesterol levels, but keep that important keyword in mind – moderation
- Excessive drinking, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect, increasing triglyceride levels, causing high blood pressure and even leading to the possibility of heart failure
Although having a drink can be a social occasion, alcohol is a drug and must be treated with respect. Excessive drinking is a route cause of many physical and mental illnesses and in extreme cases can cause death.
The majority of adults drink alcohol, but of course, not all people drink alcohol to excess. Alcoholism is a psychosocial disease that has many associated and complex issues. Although the actual causes of alcoholism are uncertain there are risk factors which can make a person more likely to drink to excess. Some of these risk factors can be controlled, and some we can have no control over. For example, you are at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic if you have or had a parent who was an alcoholic.
How Alcohol Affects the Heart
There have been a number of scientific studies which have suggested that a moderate level alcohol consumption can actually help to protect against heart disease. It does so by raising HDL cholesterol (known as “good cholesterol”) and by reducing the amount of plaque accumulation in the arteries. It has also been found that alcohol can have a minor anti-coagulating effect, which keeps blood platelets from grouping together in order to form blood clots. Both of these processes can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, although the specifics of exactly how alcohol achieves these beneficial effects remains unclear.
Although there can be beneficial effects derived from drinking alcohol in moderation, drinking to excess can have a detrimental and even toxic effect on the heart. Excessive alcohol, especially if it is over a protracted period of time, can cause serious damage to the heart. It may also lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy (a weakened and enlarged heart), high blood pressure, stroke and congestive heart failure. Excessive drinking also tends to raise your triglyceride levels, which means that more fat circulates within the body.
Moderate drinking for one person may be excessive for another, and will depend on factors such as your weight, age, gender and state of health. Men and women metabolize alcohol differently. Put simply (and very approximately), one alcoholic drink in a woman will have the same effect as two alcoholic drinks in a man. Also, women metabolize alcohol more slowly, and it will therefore stay in a woman’s system longer. It is also true that as you get older, your body becomes less efficient at metabolizing alcohol.
Other Medical Consequences
Research has shown that alcoholics are at a greater risk during surgical procedures. Poorer outcomes in surgery may be due to the detrimental effect of alcohol on general health and well being. Alcohol also has a depressant effect and can lead to malnutrition which would also have an effect. Binge drinking, or the consumption of a large amount of alcohol infrequently, brings an associated risk of atrial fibrillation and this may also be a factor in surgical failure. Excessive alcohol also effects the ability of your body to stop bleeding. This is because if your liver has been damaged by alcohol, it may have difficulty in making the proteins that clot blood.
Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of some cancers, including lung cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer. It also contributes to many other diseases and conditions including cirrhosis, hepatitis, pancreatitis, stomach ulcer, malnutrition and fetal alcohol syndrome. Long-term heavy excessive alcohol consumption may also destroy the brain cerebellum, which can lead to brain damage, slurred speech, unsteadiness and slowed thinking.
If you think you or someone close to you may drink excessively, there are many organizations and voluntary groups that can help. Talk to your doctor and get help.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
|Drinking and Smoking14 May 2009|