Is there any connection between alcohol and heart disease? One of the most important relationships in your life may very well be the one between alcohol and your heart.
While there may be some evidence that moderate drinking could have a positive effect on your heart, when it is taken to excess, those benefits disappear, and very harmful risks set in.
The medical community has been completing studies on alcohol and heart disease to determine whether moderate drinking actually protects against it, but so far, the findings have been conflicting and uncertain.
It does appear that there may be some heart benefits that are related to moderate drinking for some people, but for others with certain health risks, even a small amount of alcohol on a regular basis could lead to heart problems.
Concerns And Risks
Moderate drinking in the US is considered one drink per day for a woman, or two daily drinks for a man. In the UK the advice is no more than two units a day for a woman and three units a day for a man (see explanation for UK units at bottom of page).
Excessive drinking would be anything more than that consumed on a daily basis. Drinking on this level increases your risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and can negatively affect the blood sugar levels of diabetics.
If you have a family history of heart disease, SCD, heart arrhythmia, strokes, or high blood pressure, then there could be a negative relationship between alcohol and your heart.
There is also something called “alcohol cardiomyopathy”, in which the heart muscles are severely weakened due to excessive drinking over time.
The weaker the muscles become, the less your heart is able to properly pump blood throughout your body. This is the common result of excessive drinking over a long period of time and can often lead to heart failure and death.
More Negative Effects
The small amount of possible benefits of moderate alcohol consumption is easily overshadowed by the far less positive health concerns that are being shown by users of alcohol on a regular basis (over and above the recommended weekly limits).
Studies prove that these consequences have a significantly unhealthy effect on your body, and they are directly attributable to the connection between alcohol and heart disease.
If you are not already a drinker, then you should not start just for the currently perceived health benefits. There are other ways to get the same benefits that do not carry such harmful consequences, such as a healthy diet and exercise.
If you have a history of excessive drinking or if your family history includes any of the health problems listed above, then trying to drink moderately for health reasons is dangerous. While you may be able to drink today and feel there is no problem, there are long-term risks to be seriously considered when it comes to alcohol and your heart.
While thinking that alcohol and heart disease have a relationship may seem silly to many, it may well be the one mindset that could save your health, as well as your life.
If having read this page you feel motivated to change your life style then ask your community nurse or doctor for advice on the best way forward for you.
UK Units Explained
In the UK we measure the alcohol content of a drink in units. For instance, a pint of typical-strength bitter contains just over two units, while a glass of wine can contain anything from around 1.5 to over three, depending on the size and strength.
One UK unit is 10ml or eight grams of pure alcohol (also called ethanol).
You can calculate the units in a drink by multiplying the amount in millilitres (ml) by the strength (ABV) and dividing the result by 1000. There’s a unit for every percentage point of ABV in a litre: e.g. a litre of a typical whisky (37.5 ABV) will contain 37.5 units.