Heart of a Hunter: Effects of alcohol on the heart

Moderation beats binge drinking during hunting season

Sitting around the campfire and rehashing the day’s hunting feats (or lack of them) often happens with a cold beer or other alcoholic drink in hand. Just be careful not to overdo it.

AlcoholBlogImage.fwConsuming alcohol in moderation, along with an overall healthy lifestyle, is acceptable for most people, says Dr. Michael Shea, who specializes in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease at the University of Michigan Health System. “Too much alcohol can cause direct damage to heart cells as well as nutritional and vitamin deficiencies,” he says.

In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels. Alcohol consumption, and particularly “binge” drinking can also lead to electrical conduction issues in the heart, a condition known as atrial fibrillation or “afib”.

The American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderation in drinking — in any environment. An average of one or two drinks per day is considered moderate for men; one drink per day for women.

Continue reading

Can alcohol cause heart damage?

Drinking in moderation OK for most people

cocktailDrinking alcohol in moderation, along with an overall healthy lifestyle, is acceptable for most individuals, says Dr. Michael Shea, who specializes in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease at the University of Michigan. “Moderation” is defined by the American Heart Association as an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

According to the AHA, a drink is:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits
  • 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits

What are the dangers of too much alcohol?

However, Dr. Shea warns, non-drinkers should not start drinking based on this information. “Too much alcohol can cause direct damage to heart cells as well as nutritional and vitamin deficiencies.” So the answer to the question “Can alcohol cause heart damage?” is yes, if you drink too much of it. In addition, drinking alcohol can lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents, so moderation is critical.

Continue reading

The effects of alcohol on your heart

Dizziness and nausea are common symptoms

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 effects of alcohol on your 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 atrial fibrillation 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.”

University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe 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.