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.
If you’re experiencing chest pain, or pressure in the chest (common signs of a heart attack), but don’t know whether you should call 911, University of Michigan Nurse Practitioner Cheryl Bord advises you ask yourself these questions:
Is the pain related to a physical activity or emotional/mental stress?
Does the pain/pressure radiate to the left side, upper back, neck, jaw or left shoulder?
Are you also experiencing sweating, nausea and/or lightheadedness?
If you have ever been a patient or caregiver, then you’ve probably been faced with the uncertainty that comes with encountering unfamiliar medical terminology and procedures. In fact, it might have seemed like your doctor barely discussed your surgery with you or didn’t allow time for your family to ask questions about your options. For most patients and family members, this makes the medical process rather intimidating.
Fortunately, healthcare is moving away from this patient-directed approach and shifting toward a patient-centric model. Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) is a healthcare approach that works to remove the barriers between medical professional and medical patient by truly valuing the concerns, opinions and voices of patients and their families.
You’re out with friends enjoying a few cocktails when you suddenly feel lightheaded and need to sit down. According to Cheryl Bord, a University of Michigan nurse practitioner specializing in women’s heart health, this is just one of the effects of alcohol on your heart and vascular system.
“In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels,” Bord says. “So, if you’re standing at a party or social setting, blood will pool 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. Bord recommends minimizing alcohol intake and moving around to encourage blood flow to the heart, thus reducing the chances of passing out entirely.
Alcohol consumption, and particularly “binge” drinking associated with celebrations, can also lead to electrical conduction issues in the heart, a condition known as atrialfibrillation or “afib”.
“Consuming large amounts of alcohol can dramatically increase a person’s heart rate, making it feel like the heart is racing or fluttering,” Bord says. “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 University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.
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