Alcohol is an accomplice in the extreme moments of one’s life; be it in times of celebration or heartbreak, weddings or funerals. Yet, for some people, alcohol is like bread and butter, something without which their day seems incomplete. This article is intended for those people who do not wait for any special occasions to occur, but gulping alcohol is a regular occurrence in their life. Most of us are aware of the fact that alcohol is injurious to the liver, but many of us did not know about the adverse effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Cardiovascular System
In the subsequent pointers, we will get to know about how alcohol affects the cardiovascular system:
Tachycardia is a condition in which the heart beats at an increased rate. A normal, healthy human heart of an adult beats 72 times a minute. But in the case of patients with tachycardia, their heart beats more than 100 beats per minute in a resting state. When someone takes alcohol regularly, their heartbeats become irregular and exhibit tachycardia. When this condition persists, clots are formed in their blood and there is a high probability of a heart attack or stroke.
2. Increase in Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the amount of force that the blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels while flowing through them. When the blood exerts excessive pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, the person gets high blood pressure. Drinking alcohol spikes blood pressure instantly and when someone is into drinking alcohol every day above the limit of 2 standard drinks, the walls of their blood vessels thicken up and there is a risk of stroke or a heart attack. There are also chances of hypertension among the patients.
The primary role of the heart is to pump blood, and this generates blood pressure. This is how the oxygenated blood along with the nutrients gets transmitted to every part of the body. While pumping blood, the muscles on the walls of the heart contract, and the frequency of muscle contractions depend on the needs of the human body. These muscles on the walls of the heart are called myocardium and the deterioration of the heart muscles is called Cardiomyopathy. Regular drinking of alcohol causes Cardiomyopathy and increases the size of the chambers of the heart. Due to Cardiomyopathy, the body does not get the required amount of oxygen and this ultimately results in congestive heart failure.
A normal adult human heart beats 72 times per minute in a resting condition. A disruption in the normal rhythm of the beating of the heart is called arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is of two types:
- Bradycardia- A heart condition in which the human heart beats too slow, i.e., less than 60 beats per minute in resting condition.
- Tachycardia- A heart condition in which the human heart beats too fast, i.e., more than 100 beats per minute in resting condition.
An arrhythmia occurs due to several reasons, like alterations in the heart’s electrical system. These alterations happen due to irritable heart cells, blocked signals, irregular pathways, and taking certain neurogenic medications and stimulants. Alcohol acts as one of the strongest and commonest stimulants in altering the rhythm of the heart. Regular intake of alcohol creates a constant state of disrupted heart rate, thereby resulting in stroke and cardiac arrest.
5. Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation is a heart condition that is similar to arrhythmia. In this case, the myocardium of the atria gets affected, and they quiver abnormally, resulting in increased systolic blood pressure. This situation often makes the blood clot within the heart as it does not get circulated normally. If the blood clot breaks off from the heart chamber and releases into the bloodstream through an artery, it can reach the brain and cause ischemic stroke. This condition is seen often with regular drinkers who end up drinking far beyond the limits. Most ischemic strokes are prevalent after festive occasions when people are usually more inclined towards alcohol consumption.
Cardiovascular Diseases Caused by Alcohol
The adverse effects of alcohol lead to some of the most fatal cardiovascular conditions. The common types of critical cardiovascular conditions are:
1. Cardiac Arrest
Regular alcohol consumption can increase the levels of fat in the blood. There is a gradual increase in the triglycerides and cholesterol in the bloodstream, which gets deposited on the walls of the coronary arteries, reducing their cross-sectional area. This increases the blood pressure and if some deposited plaque from the walls of the blood vessel gets carried away to the heart in form of a clot, there will be cardiac arrest. Again, if the blood supply to the heart gets blocked due to the build-up of plaque within the coronary arteries, the oxygen supply to the heart gets cut off partially or completely, resulting in cardiac arrest.
One of the most unforgiving results of regular alcohol consumption is stroke. When the oxygen supply to the human brain is cut off, it results in a stroke. Strokes are fatal and even if a person recovers, many a time they lose coordination of their limbs and reflexes or the sense of touch or changes in temperature. Strokes are of two types:
- Ischemic Stroke: This result is due to the clot or plaque formed by fat globules breaking off from the walls of the arteries, acting as a blockage to supply oxygen to the brain. Alcohol helps in the formation of clots by increasing the triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. Alcohol weakens the heart muscles, causing Cardiomyopathy and disrupting the rhythm of the heart. Furthermore, alcohol triggers high blood pressure, which causes the clots to break off from the walls of the blood vessels and launch into the bloodstream in the arteries leading to the brain.
- Haemorrhagic Stroke: This is also called cerebral thrombosis and is a result of tearing and bleeding of an artery carrying blood to the brain. Too much alcohol consumption can increase the blood pressure in the arteries, rupturing them and forming clots. If a person has high blood platelet counts, he is more prone to the fatal effects of haemorrhagic stroke as his blood will coagulate faster, creating clots rapidly.
The Final Diagnosis
Regular consumption of alcohol has severe adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, as it increases the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the bloodstream, making it thick. There is a layer of deposition of the same lipids on the walls of the arteries, making the pathways narrow and increasing blood pressure. Eventually, a person with high blood pressure gets Cardiomyopathy or Atrial fibrillation. With time, there are high risks of life-endangering conditions like cardiac arrest, Ischemic stroke, or cerebral thrombosis.
Abstain yourself from alcohol. If you are an occasional drinker, drink in moderation. Never binge-drink and make sure that you drink a lot of water after wrapping up with a drinking occasion to replenish your body as it gets dehydrated after consuming alcohol. Lead a healthy lifestyle as most ailments are caused due to unhealthy food habits and reckless lifestyle choices. After all, it is one life that we have, and we should make the best use of it by choosing our health above everything else.