January 30th, 2017
The effects of alcohol on the heart may be beneficial when only a moderate amount of alcohol is consumed, but experts remain divided about how much alcohol can safely be consumed by any adult, since it affects a variety of cells and organs in the human body.
Moderate drinking is considered less than one drink daily or seven drinks weekly in women and 2 daily drinks or 14 weekly drinks in men. This refers to a “standard drink,” which is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor. The effects that may be beneficial include an increase in high density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is the “good cholesterol,” in addition to prevention of damage from low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that causes heart attack and stroke.
Alcohol also lowers blood pressure and sometimes increases the time it takes for your blood to clot, which can potentially
prevent a heart attack or stroke, but which can also result in heavier bleeding at times. To add to the uncertainty about the benefit of alcohol consumption, there is no real evidence that these benefits occur in moderate drinkers because of the amount of alcohol they consume or if it is the result of a healthy lifestyle choice. In other words, the evidence about the benefits of alcohol is not compelling enough for doctors to recommend alcohol to nondrinkers.
There are multiple adverse effects associated with heavy alcohol consumption. Some of these effects involve the heart. Heavy drinking can cause irregularity in its rhythms, even after just a weekend binge. This is sometimes known as “holiday heart.” Regular heavy alcohol use causes an increase in blood pressure, which puts a strain and can result in heart failure. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is another serious cause of its failure that results from the direct effect of alcohol on its muscle. Finally, the empty calories in alcohol tend to accumulate as fat, which can lead to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, associated with diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, is a leading risk factor for heart attack.
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