You’re out with friends enjoying a few holiday cocktails when you suddenly feel lightheaded and need to sit down. You might not realize it, but you’re experiencing the effects of alcohol on your vascular system.
In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels. So, when you’re standing at a party or social setting, blood often pools in the vessels in your feet instead of being pumped back to the heart.
The result can be feelings of lightheadedness, nausea and over-heating (known as pre-syncope), which are exacerbated by alcohol. To prevent these symptoms, minimize alcohol intake and move around to encourage blood flow to the heart, thus reducing your chances of passing out entirely.
Other reasons to minimize alcohol at parties
Studies show that alcohol — and particularly “binge” drinking associated with holiday celebrations — can lead to electrical conduction issues in the heart, a condition known as “atrial fibrillation.”
Consuming large amounts of alcohol can dramatically increase a person’s heart rate, making it feel like the heart is racing or fluttering. This is a serious rhythm abnormality of the heart and should be treated immediately by a medical professional who will provide medication to help slow the heart down.
The bottom line? You’ll enjoy those holiday celebrations more with fewer cocktails.
Take the next step:
- Become more mindful of your alcohol use during the holidays: sign up for weekly “Holiday Drinking – Stop and Swap” emails from MHealthy’s Alcohol Management Program. Emails began the week of Thanksgiving and will continue through the New Year.
Cheryl Bord is a University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center nurse practitioner specializing in women’s heart health. She received her BSN from Eastern Michigan University and her MSN in Primary Care Nursing of the Adult Nurse Practitioner program, from Wayne State University. She has dual certification as an NP in adult health and women’s health, with experience in internal medicine, OB/GYN and cardiology.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.