Alcohol and Heart Health?

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Does alcohol damage my heart health? I am a long-term cancer survivor who lives with chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy. In short, chemo damaged my heart. In addition to living an anti-cancer lifestyle, I also live a heart healthy lifestyle.

In short, I live with an incurable cancer called multiple myeloma. Meaning I will never be cured (until I died of something else). I allow myself a glass of wine several dinners each week. I do believe that alcohol is toxic. But I also believe that moderate alcohol consumption helps me cope.

How does alcohol consumption affect heart health?

Alcohol consumption can have complex effects on heart health, and the impact depends on various factors such as the amount consumed, frequency of consumption, individual health status, and overall lifestyle. Here are some key points:

  1. Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Moderate alcohol consumption, defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. This is primarily due to the potential benefits of alcohol on increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing the formation of blood clots.
  2. Increased Risk with Heavy Drinking: On the other hand, heavy or excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on heart health. Chronic heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and an increased risk of stroke.
  3. Alcohol and Heart Failure: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle weakens, leading to heart failure. This is often seen in individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol over many years.
  4. Arrhythmias: Alcohol can disrupt the electrical signals in the heart, leading to arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), which can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
  5. Interactions with Medications: Alcohol can interact with medications used to treat heart conditions, potentially reducing their effectiveness or causing harmful side effects.
  6. Individual Variability: It’s important to note that individual responses to alcohol vary. Some people may be more sensitive to its effects, while others may metabolize it more efficiently.
  7. Overall Lifestyle: The effects of alcohol on heart health should also be considered within the context of overall lifestyle choices. A healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking are all crucial factors in maintaining heart health.

Further, I pursue a number of heart healthy therapies including 

  • moderate daily exercise
  • nutrition- Mediterranean Diet
  • nutritional supplementation, 
  • sleep

Have you been diagnosed with cancer? If so, what kind? What stage? If you would like to learn more about both conventional and non-conventional therapies to manage your cancer let me know- David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

A Single Drink a Day May Cause High Blood Pressure

For anyone who believed that a glass of wine a day is good for your heart, new research presented last month at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) Annual conference may be hard to swallow.

A study of more than 17,000 U.S. adults showed that as little as a drink a day may contribute significantly to high blood pressure (hypertension). This investigation differs from past research, according to study authors, in that it specifically evaluated the link between hypertension and moderate drinking rather than the link between alcohol and heart disease.

“Our results demonstrate that even if you only drink a moderate amount of alcohol, ask your provider to check your blood pressure at each visit,” said Amer Aladin, MD, lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “If your blood pressure is elevated you should take appropriate measures to reduce it, which possibly means reducing your alcohol consumption.”

The American Heart Association warns that high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Based on their findings, study authors determined that the likelihood of having elevated high blood pressure was on average 19 percent greater among moderate drinkers and 44 percent higher for the heavy drinkers compared with those who never drank.

Compared with the never-drinkers, moderate drinkers had 53 percent higher odds of having stage 1 hypertension and 100 percent greater odds for stage 2 hypertension.

Risks were higher for heavy drinkers; they faced a 69 percent greater chance of developing stage 1 hypertension and 140 percent greater chance for stage 2 hypertension compared with those who totally avoid alcohol.

Overall, the average blood pressure was about 109/67 mmHg among never-drinkers, 128/79 mmHg among moderate drinkers, and 153/82 mmHg among heavy drinkers.

The results took into account other factors linked to hypertension, such as age, sex, race, income, and cardiovascular risks separate from alcohol consumption.

Why Does Alcohol Stress the Heart?

A variety of factors may explain alcohol’s impact on the heart, according to research scientists.

“Alcohol increases appetite and is itself very energy-dense, so drinking often leads to greater caloric intake overall,” said Dr. Aladin.

With more calories consumed, weight gain can follow, which is a well-established factor in raising blood pressure.

In addition, people who drink a lot may be more likely to eat unhealthy foods and exercise less. Alcohol consumption may also increase inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which may have a negative effect on heart health.

Unexpected Results and Study Limitations

Sarah Samaan, MD, a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Legacy Heart Center in Plano, Texas, found the findings slightly surprising.

“It’s not clear at what intervals the drinks were consumed,” says Dr. Samaan. “For some people, those drinks may all be consumed on the weekend, and we know that binge drinking raises blood pressure, even if it’s just a couple of days per week. Other studies have fairly conclusively found a link between heavier drinking and high blood pressure.”

Because one drink per night may have a very different effect on blood pressure compared with four drinks two nights per week, Samann would like to see more research on the daily frequency of alcohol intake.

In addition, she notes that it’s uncertain how food choices and other behaviors might be affecting blood pressure outcomes.

As an observational study relying on self-reported alcohol use, the study is somewhat limited, according to Salim Virani, MD, a staff cardiologist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and chair of the ACC’s Prevention Section and Leadership Council.

“We know that patients may underreport their use of alcohol, so they may be using more alcohol than what they stated on the questionnaires,” says Dr. Virani.

Samaan adds that more research is needed before strong recommendations can be made.

“The takeaway is that if you are suffering from high blood pressure, take a look at your alcohol consumption,” she says. “If you drink regularly, cutting back to just a few times per week may make a significant difference.”

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