alcohol heart attack

Myth Breaking: Heavy Drinking and Heart Attacks

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

You hear it frequently said, “Drinking a couple of glasses of wine is good for my heart.” It is a popular conversation piece, especially amongst those who enjoy a few glasses of wine a day. But there is a danger inherent in this statement. Psychologically, it helps people work through the cognitive dissonance between the overwhelming harmful effects of alcohol and a desire to continue imbibing on a daily basis. The small amount of possible good outshines the overwhelming risks of alcohol, and for many, this is the first step on the slippery slope towards Alcohol Use Disorder and potential heart disease.

Other Numbers

A number of scientific studies have uncovered a strong link between heavy drinking and several forms of cardiovascular disease. Reuters Health recently reported on a study that documents increased risk of heart attack, atrial fibrillation, and congestive heart failure among adults diagnosed with alcohol abuse problems. The findings also challenge a notion that has become popular. Based on research that suggests light drinking offers health benefits, a myth has emerged that high alcohol consumption also provides heart benefits. This is simply not the case.

Alcohol and Heart Study

The study reported by Reuters Health examined data gathered from the medical records of 14.7 million California adults who received medical treatment between 2005 and 2009. The study compared those persons who had diagnosed alcohol abuse problems with the general population.

Dr. Gregory Marcus of the University of California San Francisco said that the findings show a strong link between heavy drinking and increased risk of heart-related health problems. The chances of a heart attack were 40 percent higher for people who had a history of excessive drinking.

Heart attacks occur when a person develops coronary heart disease. Fatty deposits on the heart and artery walls block blood flow. The heart cannot get enough oxygen and cannot work properly. It may stop altogether.

The study also found that the likelihood of arterial fibrillation, also called irregular heartbeat, was twice as great. Congestive heart failure risk increased 2.3 times. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is damaged and can no longer pump blood properly.

Alcohol and the Heart

Alcohol use disorder is defined as heavy drinking that is accompanied by an inability to control alcohol consumption. Binge drinking and alcoholism are forms of AUD. With these studies, what is clear is that people with alcohol addictions are at greater risk of heart disease.

These findings are supported by other research in the United Kingdom and the United States. Dr. Marcus says more research is needed. The study is observational—meaning it only identifies statistical links. Scientists don’t yet know exactly how excessive drinking causes heart problems. In addition, they do not have enough information to establish safe alcohol consumption levels.

Prevention of Alcohol-Related Heart Disease

It is true that there is evidence that low to moderate consumption of alcohol may provide some protection against heart attacks. However, Dr. Marcus and other researchers say that this in no way justifies excessive drinking. Not enough is known about the link between drinking and heart disease to determine a safe level of consumption.

This is all to reiterate that alcohol addiction is definitely not good for your health. This kind of statement should go without saying; however, many prefer to believe that their consumption is not just okay, but beneficial. There is no guesswork here. Binge drinking, heavy drinking, and excessive alcohol consumption—these activities are akin to playing with heart disease. It is a life and death issue.

Addiction Help

Of course, you might know the facts about this but be powerless to stop drinking. No amount of understanding or simple willpower alone can change an addiction. If you or a loved one are currently in the dangerous cycle of addiction to alcohol, please call us. Located in Fresno County, First Steps Recovery uses holistic care and evidence-based treatment to help residents find lasting freedom from alcohol addiction. Call us today to find out your treatment options: 844-489-0836.

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