Alcohol can cause ‘fatal’ problems for the heart

Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk in 2021

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Almost 30 million Britons drink alcohol, and more than a quarter admit to binge drinking. The health implications of drinking alcohol are widely known, with government guidelines in place for how much you should drink. One expert explained three ways in which it can negatively impact the heart.

Doctor Oliver Guttmann, from The Wellington Hospital in London, shared how alcohol can lead to cardiovascular disease, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias, among other issues.

Speaking to, he said: “Alcohol use can begin to take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing over time – these effects may be more serious and more noticeable if you drink regularly.

“Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week can pose a great risk in damaging your health.”

There is a “very clear” link between regularly drinking too much alcohol and having high blood pressure.

Dr Guttmann said: “Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) puts strain on the heart muscle and can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

“It also weakens heart muscles, which can affect the lungs, liver, brain and other body systems.

“Long-term drinking above the guidelines can also increase the heart rate and lead to an irregular heartbeat.”

Drinking alcohol in excess can also cause other serious health conditions, such as cardiomyopathy.

“Cardiomyopathy is a general term for diseases of the heart muscle, where the walls of the heart chambers have become stretched, thickened or stiff,” he said.

“This affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.”

Dr Guttmann added: “Excessive alcohol intake can also cause arrhythmias. An arrhythmia is an abnormality of the heart’s rhythm.

“It may beat too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly. These abnormalities range from a minor inconvenience or discomfort to a potentially fatal problem.

“If not treated, arrhythmias can damage the heart, brain, or other organs. This can lead to life-threatening stroke, heart failure, or cardiac arrest.”

How to lower your risk

The government advises drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, on a regular basis.

14 units is the equivalent to around six medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or six pints of four percent beer.

“It is important to spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week,” Dr Guttmann advised.

“However, it’s important to note that there is no completely ‘safe level’ of drinking and it is important to decrease your alcohol intake to help lower your risk of harming your health.”

One of the main cardiovascular diseases is coronary heart disease.

This can lead to:

  • Angina – chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart muscle
  • Heart attacks – where the blood flow to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked
  • Heart failure – where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly.

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