Heart Health and Alcohol Consumption: Understanding Moderation and Risks

by Dr. Anil Kumar

Alcohol and Heart Health: Facts vs Fiction

The human heart is a fist-sized organ located in the chest that pumps blood throughout the body. A critical organ known for good health and survival; a lot of people are now actively looking to imbibe heart-healthy habits to support this organ. 
One of the most common debates about the heart is related to alcohol consumption. While some believe that drinking in moderation benefits the heart, others are not so certain. Here, we debunk the myths surrounding alcohol and look at the facts connecting these two. 
When it comes to your heart health, always consult the top cardiologist in Kannur to determine specific heart-healthy habits suited to your circumstance.  

Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Heart Health

There is a popular belief that moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, can benefit the heart. However, this causation factor is not entirely clear. Simply relying on alcohol is not enough to determine heart health. Other lifestyle factors, such as a balanced diet, stress management, and regular physical activity, play crucial roles in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Some reports also state that alcohol may boost HDL levels. HDL is the good cholesterol that protects your heart and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack. However, HDL can be found in healthier alternatives such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Better lifestyle choices including regular movement and quitting smoking can also boost HDL levels in the body while supporting overall health. 
Additionally, factors such as medical history, family history, and lifestyle also need to be considered before determining if alcohol in any amount is safe for a particular individual or not. To learn more about what works best for your heart, schedule a consult with the top cardiologist in Kannur. 

How Much Alcohol Consumption Is Moderate?

While the debate about whether alcohol is good or bad continues, the most important aspect to remember is moderation. No matter which alcoholic drink you prefer, excessive consumption may prove harmful. 
Moderate alcohol consumption for healthy adults has been pegged at up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. 
Examples of one drink include:

  • Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 millilitres)

  • Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 millilitres)

  • Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 millilitres)

While this amount of alcohol consumption may be suitable for healthy adults, it may not be the case for everyone. People with heart attack symptoms or heartbeat irregularities (normal heart rate should be between 60 to 100 beats per minute) may be advised to abstain from alcohol entirely. 

Risks Associated With Excessive Alcohol Consumption

While the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are not quite clear, the risks associated with excessive alcohol drinking are well established. Excessive drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women, and 5 or more drinks for men.  
Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, weaken the heart muscles, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as a heart attack and stroke.  
Additionally, it may also lead to weight gain due to the high calorie content further increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Other potential risk factors associated with excessive alcohol consumption include liver disease, pancreatitis, certain cancers, and more.
For people with a history of heart disease or those dealing with heart attack symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness, alcohol consumption may act as a catalyst for heart disease. Other times when alcohol should be completely avoided and not consumed even in moderation include: 

  • You are taking medicines that interact with alcohol

  • You are about to drive

  • You have a history of hemorrhagic stroke, heart disease, or liver disease

  • You have a history of alcohol addiction

  • You are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Conclusion

While moderate alcohol consumption may offer potential cardiovascular benefits, it needs to be supported with a healthy diet and lifestyle. For people who enjoy alcohol, the key is to always drink in moderation and avoid excessive or binge drinking as it can lead to heart disease and other health conditions. To know what factors best support your heart health, please consult a licensed cardiologist in Kannur.