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How Does Alcohol Affect the Heart?

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Alcohol may lead to high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, heart attack, or stroke. This article is an overview of the relationship between alcohol and the heart.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vaishnav. G.

Published At April 30, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 28, 2022


Heavy drinking is associated with numerous adverse outcomes on the cardiovascular system. Excessive intake of alcohol may lead to an array of heart disorders such as cardiac arrest, reduced cardiac output, heart failure, and even stroke. Too much alcohol affects the muscles of the heart and leads to cardiac muscle malfunctioning called cardiomyopathy. Alcohol can also contribute to obesity. The list of diseases associated with alcohol is long.

Alcohol is the prime source of excess and empty calories. It causes weight gain and is hugely detrimental to health in the long run. The heart and the blood vessels are the major parts of the cardiovascular system. Blood is pumped throughout the body via the blood vessels. Alcohol has been studied to have a solid potential to completely disrupt the cardiovascular system. Alcohol increases blood pressure as well as heart rate. Therefore, it is very possible to end up with an alcohol-induced heart attack.

What Cardiovascular Conditions Can Be Caused Due to Alcohol?

There are numerous cardiac conditions that hamper the normal functioning of the heart. Some of them are mentioned below.

Increased Heart Rate:

Heart rate refers to the times the heart can beat in a minute. Alcohol can cause modifications in the regular pattern of heartbeats. For example, multiple pieces of research have concluded that drinking alcohol may result in several episodes of tachycardia, which increases the heart rate because of abnormalities in the electrical signals that give out a heartbeat. Complications and risks as a result of regular events of tachycardia depend on various factors such as the frequency as well as severity. Alcohol can also cause blood clots in the coronary arteries that will eventually lead to an episode of a heart attack.

High Blood Pressure:

Blood pressure is the measure of the force-placed by the blood against the walls of blood vessels. High blood pressure means the event of blood pumping with an escalated amount of force. Drinking alcohol drastically elevates blood pressure. High blood pressure leads to hardening as well as thickening of the cardiac arteries. This places the heart at an increased risk of heart attack or even stroke.

Weakness of the Heart Muscles:

The chief and most critical function of the heart is pumping out blood with nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. The heart is able to achieve this by maintaining the pressure for blood and arteries to flow in a single direction smoothly. The prevalence and strength of the heart’s contractions depend on the needs of the body. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, thus increasing the amount of force the heart has to put into maintaining standard blood pressure levels. This, in the long run, may eventually weaken the heart. Thus alcohol intake can strongly result in cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy can lead to congestive heart failure because the heart becomes tired in the process of meeting the excess demands.


A change in the standard rhythm of the heart's electrical conduction is called arrhythmia. Arrhythmias can take place because of the modification happening in the heart's electrical system due to alcohol intake. Alcohol can also block signals, produce abnormal rhythms and irritate the heart cells. Arrhythmias have the potential to lead to cardiac arrest; this is because of a blend of bradycardia, which is an abnormally slow heart rate, and tachycardia, which is an unusually fast heart rate. Atrial fibrillation is a kind of arrhythmia induced due to alcohol.

Heart Attack:

The muscles of the heart demand a constant supply of oxygen. A heart attack occurs when this endless supply is blocked due to numerous reasons, and now the heart is devoid of pure oxygen. The flow of blood to the heart may be stopped due to the accumulation of fat in the arteries. Alcohol consumption leads to high levels of cholesterol which in turn leads to plaque accumulation and a heart attack. Alcohol also clots the blood, which may again risk a person having an event of a heart attack.

Ischemic Stroke:

Alcohol intake can drastically increase the risk of disturbed blood flow to the brain and nearby tissues. This can result in a loss of motor functions as well as sensory functions. A stroke can also damage other vital organs and systems such as skeletal, respiratory, or digestive. When the blood supply to the brain via the arteries is blocked, a clot is formed, which gets lodged. This lodgment of the clot can increase the blood pressure and devoid the brain of essential oxygen supply, leading to near syncope and stroke.


Being obese or overweight or even having a body mass index higher than the expected level can call for multiple problems in the cardiovascular system. Alcohol has a strong tendency to increase the amount of cholesterol in the body. More importantly, it shoots the risk of developing low-density lipoprotein, also known as bad cholesterol. Alcohol has been thoroughly studied to be one of the leading causes of beer belly directly proportional to the amount of damage present in the coronary arteries. Third, weight gain increases the risk of heart attack and even heart failure. This is even more prevalent in patients who suffer from diabetes mellitus.


Alcohol is a depressant drug that helps people forget life problems. This is only a temporary effect. The long-lasting impact of alcohol can be seen in the heart and other structures of the cardiovascular system. There is no evidence of any positives of drinking alcohol in relation to the heart and its normal functioning. Alcohol should be avoided, especially in case the patient already has an underlying cardiovascular disease or other metabolic diseases such as thyroid or diabetes. Every problem to the heart due to alcohol can be kept at bay by avoiding alcohol and alcohol-related beverages.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does Alcohol Damage the Heart?

Heavy alcohol drinking can cause high blood pressure because it puts strain on the heart muscle and can lead to cardiovascular disease. It raises the possibility of stroke and heart attack.


How Much Does Alcohol Damage the Heart?

Having six to nine drinks increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Excessive drinking of alcohol may harm cardiac tissue.


What Are the Four Signs of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Individuals with alcoholic cardiomyopathy typically experience heart failure symptoms such as:
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath).
- Orthopnea (discomfort in breathing).
- Edema (swelling).
- Nocturia (frequent urination at night).
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate).


Can Alcohol Permanently Damage the Heart?

Heavy drinking causes a disorder known as alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy, where the shape of the heart is changed over time. Heart shape alterations permanently harm the heart, resulting in heart failure and other severe problems.


Why Do Alcoholics Have Heart Attacks?

Drinking too much alcohol can elevate blood pressure, and being overweight increases the chance of having a heart attack, stroke, or developing type 2 diabetes.


Which Alcohol Is Good for Heart Patients?

Red wine is beneficial for a healthy heart. The combination of alcohol and certain antioxidants found in red wine may help combat coronary artery disease, the condition that causes heart attacks.


What Occurs If One Drinks Alcohol Daily?

Drinking alcohol on a daily basis can result in the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive issues.


Does Alcohol Clean Arteries?

Heavy alcohol use can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries, that is known as atherosclerosis. It can cause partial or total blockage of one or more of these arteries, which reduces blood flow.


What Is Considered Heavy Drinking?

Heavy drinking is usually described as 15 drinks or more per week for men. For women, heavy drinking is described as eight drinks or more per week.


Does Quitting Drinking Help the Heart?

When alcohol consumption is fully stopped, it gives the heart muscle a chance to grow stronger and gradually become well. Even if a person stops drinking, some heart conditions are chronic, indicating they never fully heal.


What Is the Safest Alcohol to Drink?

Red wine is the safe alcohol that has the most health benefits since it contains high quantities of polyphenols, which have been linked to improved gastrointestinal and heart health.


What Are the Good Benefits of Alcohol?

Drinking moderate levels of alcohol can improve heart health by lowering the chance of developing serious cardiovascular diseases and passing away from heart disease. 


Are there Any Benefits of Alcohol?

Moderate alcohol use may have certain health benefits, such as lowering the chance of developing and dying from heart disease, such as an ischemic stroke, and lowering the risk of diabetes.


What Are the Signs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption?

The signs of excessive alcohol consumption include changes in skin color, easy bruising, weight gain, loss of appetite, tingling or numbness, heartburn, stomach problems, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sleep disturbances, night sweats, fatigue, and low energy.


What Are the Health Benefits of 40 Days of No Alcohol?

The potential health benefits of not drinking alcohol include reduced anxiety, better sleep, increased energy, and improvements in weight and body composition, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and liver enzymes.
Dr. Vaishnav. G.
Dr. Vaishnav. G.

General Practitioner


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