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How Alcohol Affects Your Heart

A sip of wine here, a cocktail there. More than half of adults drink alcohol, but do you know how this habit impacts your heart health? The first thing you should know is that alcohol’s influence on your health depends on various factors, including how much and how often you drink.

Existing risk factors, like being overweight or having high cholesterol, make drinking more dangerous. Your age also factors into the equation, since it impacts how well your body clears alcohol. If you’re known to indulge in alcohol, read on to learn how you could be putting your heart at risk.

Moderate alcohol intake

“The dose makes your poison” is an adage that holds true when it comes to alcohol consumption. That’s because moderate amounts of alcohol can have protective benefits for your heart. Scientists haven’t ironed out all of the details, but in small quantities alcohol seems to help keep the lining of your blood vessels soft and flexible, which promotes healthy blood flow.

What constitutes a moderate amount? No more than one drink a day for women and at most two a day for men. This amount is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Still, experts are stopping short of recommending that you go out of your way to drink alcohol for potential heart health benefits.

If you don’t normally consume alcohol there are better ways to protect your heart, such as:

Making these healthy lifestyle changes makes a difference if you’re at risk for heart disease. And even though small amounts of alcohol may benefit your heart, it’s still best for your health to avoid it.

Binge drinking

Whether you’re living carefree in college, or just like to see how many beers you can handle in a given night, binge drinking spells trouble for your heart. It disturbs the rhythm of your heartbeat and raises the odds of having a heart attack or stroke for an entire week afterward.

What’s considered binge drinking? Having at least six drinks in one night. And while your risk may go back to baseline after a week, you’re playing Russian roulette with your heart if you’re regularly drinking to excess.

Long-term heavy drinking

A regular habit of drinking heavily causes negative changes in the heart that pave the way for heart failure. Not only that, it increases blood pressure, which is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. If you’re guilty of having one too many drinks on a regular basis, cut back for the sake of your health. Not only is your heart health at risk, but heavy drinking increases the risk for other chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

The bottom line is that drinking too much alcohol is bad news for your heart. If you’ve ever needed a reason to cut back, protecting your heart is a good one. Other lifestyle choices, such as smoking and not getting enough exercise influence heart health as well.

Stop by West Coast Medicine and Cardiology for a full screening to find out what your heart disease risk is. We’ll help you learn which lifestyle changes can help prevent heart disease and keep your health on track. Call today or use our online scheduling tool.

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