The Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

Alcohol is a depressant and affects a person’s mood, emotions, and behavior. Alcohol consumption causes the brain to release high levels of dopamine, which provides a pleasurable feeling.

Alcohol affects the brain and its ability to control the individual’s behavior, thinking, motion, and speech. It also affects the heart and can have damaging and deadly consequences.


Alcohol can cause a number of side effects that vary from person to person. A person who drinks heavily can develop heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Drinking alcohol can lead to cardiomyopathy and cardiovascular disease. While some people can consume alcohol in moderation and experience virtually no side effects, it does not mean it does not increase the risk for other underlying health problems. The quantity of alcohol is not the only factor for developing heart disease. Patterns of heavy drinking can increase the risk for specific forms of cancers and other diseases that may cause irreversible damage. Drinking patterns and genetics are also factors that influence the risk of heart disease.

Those who are dependent on alcohol or drink heavily on a regular basis are at the highest risk for developing complications related to alcohol abuse. The heart and cardiovascular system are highly impacted by alcohol consumption both in the short and long-term. Drinking excessively can cause levels of some fats in the blood to increase, which in turn, leads to higher blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and increased levels of arterial plaque. Because of this, treatment for substance use is often wise for those who struggle with alcohol abuse.

Health Consequences of Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Immediately after consumption, alcohol can cause symptoms such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, but long-term, regular consumption can lead to more dangerous consequences.

Some of the most common alcohol-related cardiovascular problems include:

  1. Increased heart rate: Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to changes in the way the heart beats. Studies show that heavy drinking can cause episodes of tachycardia to develop. Depending on the frequency and severity of it, it can lead to the development of blood clots that may cause a heart attack or stroke.
  2. Increased blood pressure Drinking alcohol regularly can cause a person to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). High blood pressure can cause the walls of arteries to harden or thicken, which can increase the risk for heart attack or stroke.
  3. Weakened heart muscle: Regular, heavy alcohol consumption can cause damage to the muscles of the heart. Known as cardiomyopathy, weakened heart muscles are unable to pump enough for what the body needs. This can lead to congestive heart failure.
  4. Irregular heart beat: Changes in heart rhythm, known as arrhythmias, can be linked to increased alcohol consumption. These changes can be temporary, but they can lead to cardiac arrest and stroke.
  5. Atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is a form of an arrhythmia that causes the heart to quiver rather than beat as it normally would. This can cause blood to not circulate as it should, sometimes resulting in blood pooling and clotting. If a clot were to break off and become lodged in an artery, it can cause a stroke to occur.
  6. Heart attack: Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, is linked to an increased risk for heart attack. Quick consumption of large amounts of alcohol can cause blood pressure to rise rapidly. Coupled with an irregular heartbeat, a heart attack can be suddenly triggered in a person with underlying heart problems.
  7. Enlarged heart Chronic, heavy drinking over a long period of time can lead to the development of a myriad of problems. In addition to other side effects, such as weakened heart muscle and cardiomyopathy, there is a high risk of vascular damage and heart attack occurring.

Can the Heart Recover After Alcohol Abuse?

When a person stops drinking alcohol, his or her heart muscles strengthen and gradually improve.

Effects of Alcohol on the heart

Alcoholism is a treatable disease. When a person stops drinking alcohol, his or her heart can begin to heal and reduce the risk of heart problems. Learning how to help your alcoholic son, daughter, spouse, or loved one may help them seek the help they need, healing their bodies and their minds.

Nexus Recovery specializes in alcohol addiction treatment and offers an exclusive experience for individuals who truly want to change. We encompass holistic therapy for the mind, body, and soul. Our mission is to provide tools and support for every client’s seamless transition into a meaningful and fulfilling life of sobriety.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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