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Heart Consult

How Alcohol Affects Your Heart?

Alcohol is a serious threat as far as the heart is concerned, especially it's consumption in excessive quantities. If you are a chronic alcoholic you should be beware of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy. It is a condition that is predominantly seen in middle aged men in the age group of 35-55 years and also in cases involving habitual alcohol abuse in short time intervals. Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy is a condition resulting from the ineffective pumping action of the heart due to decreased muscle strength. Because of the toxic effect of alcohol the heart becomes enlarged and the heart muscles become thin. This condition is known to cause lack of blood flow which affects all parts of the body in extreme cases.

Studies have shown that alcohol has a negative effect on the protein synthesis. The exact mechanism of which is unknown but the effect is seen to be consistent and observed throughout the heart. This effect may sometimes be multiplied in stressful conditions.

There has also been findings based on some research which suggests a relation between the effects of alcohol and the genetic makeup of certain individuals. Some people show a genetic vulnerability to the effects of alcohol on the muscles of the heart. Such individuals having DNA mutations are more susceptible to the ill effects of alcohol.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopthy

The major symptoms which indicate Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy are:

  • Abrupt disturbance in sleep, waking up and gasping for breath.(Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea)
  • Having trouble breathing lying down.
  • Presence of mucus in cough or a pink, frothy material.
  • Irregular pulse.
  • Palpitation i.e. the sensation of feeling one's heartbeat.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Swelling in the ankle, feet and leg.
  • Decreased urine output.
  • Need to urinate at night.
  • Overall swelling.
  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.

Diagnosis is followed after a physical examination from which the following signs may reveal alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

  • Abnormal Heart sounds.
  • Murmurs.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Swollen neck veins.
  • Enlarged Liver.
  • Low Blood pressure.

Additional tests like an ECG or a chest X-ray may follow. Coronary Angiogram may be done to eliminate doubts regarding coronary artery blockages.

However alcohol consumption in mild quantities is indeed advisable for the cardiovascular system. For instance consumption of red wine helps reduce the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Life expectancy of a person who consumes small quantities of alcohol is much better than a teetotaler. The advisable rate of