What Does Excessive Alcohol Consumption Do to the Heart?
The human heart is an astounding four-chambered muscle. Though only slightly larger than your fist, it is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body and will do so at least 2.5 billion times during your life. This pumping action is powered by a self-contained electrical system and delivers the blood through a highway of vessels which, if laid on end, would reach thousands of miles.
In recent years, some have claimed that moderate alcohol intake is beneficial to the heart. However, the very same benefits may be reaped through proper diet and regular exercise making the potential for damage to the heart through alcohol consumption greater than any perceived benefit. Some of the different types of heart problems are:
- Angina – This is the term used to describe the pain experienced when blood flow into the heart is restricted.
- Atherosclerosis – This is the plaque buildup from cholesterol which narrows arteries through which blood travels.
- Coronary artery disease – This is the term for any person at risk for a heart attack although it is most often due to atherosclerosis and impaired elasticity of the arteries.
- Heart attack – Also known as myocardial infarction (MI) this describes any blockage or blood clot which keeps blood from reaching the heart. Without oxygen, heart muscles die.
Lowering artery plaque buildup, reducing the risk of blood clots and improving blood flow have been attributed to one or two glasses of red wine. On the other hand, drinking too much can produce serious harm to the heart.
Heavy drinking damages this all-important muscle and as many as two percent of all coronary artery disease cases are the result of alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking may produce cardiomyopathy or permanent and perhaps fatal damage to the heart. Drinking is associated with hypertension (high blood pressure) which stresses the heart and every other body organ.
Alcohol tends to increase the number of triglycerides (fats) within the blood and is a risk factor for diabetes which, in turn, strains the heart. In addition, over drinking triples the likelihood that a person will undergo a stroke (also known as a cardiovascular accident (CVA). Roughly five percent of all CVAs are attributed to alcohol intake.
New research is showing that alcohol negatively impacts the function of tiny mitochondria causing a serious disruption in their organization and calcium uptake which can lead to cell death and stress on the heart. This amazing 3D research has given new insight into how alcohol abuse and heart damage are related.