Chetan Khamare, MD, FACC Premier Heart and Vascular Center, Wesley Chapel, North Lakeland and Carrollwood

We all know that drugs and alcohol are harmful to our overall health and wellbeing, but many don’t understand the direct effects on the heart. In this article, we will discuss precisely how drugs and alcohol affect your heart.

Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

Unlike drugs, alcohol is entirely legal and a part of life for many adults. However, alcohol should be consumed only in moderation. The most commonly accepted guidelines allow for women to drink one and men up to two glasses a day. One glass or one drink is essentially 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Naturally, most cardiologists would recommend you don’t drink alcohol at all, while others say that staying in these recommended doses might even be beneficial for your heart health.

It is thought that moderate drinking can help the heart in a few important ways:

  • It raises the level of good or HDL cholesterol
  • Helps prevent damage caused by bad or LDL cholesterol
  • Prevents blood from clotting, which ends up being both good and bad (staves off heart attacks but causes more profound bleeding)

Unfortunately, these positive outcomes cannot be obtained unless you lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

Drinking more than the recommended amounts, can lead to a host of adverse outcomes. Besides the damage it causes to several vital organs, it also damages the heart. Heavy drinking can cause damage to the heart muscle, leading to a disease called cardiomyopathy. It makes it hard for the heart to pump blood, which leads to further damage and even potential heart failure.

Outside of cardiomyopathy, heavy drinking raises blood pressure (which harms the heart on its own leading to an increased blockage in your arteries), causes irregular heart rhythms, heart attack, stroke, and more. People who already have heart conditions should avoid drinking entirely as alcohol can worsen current illness and lead to further issues.

Effects of Drugs on the Heart

Plenty of drugs exist, and each of them has a different impact on the heart. Some can only affect it mildly, but others can cause an abnormal heart rate or even a heart attack. Drugs that are injected can lead to health issues like collapsed veins and bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Stronger drugs can easily lead to heart attacks and strokes, especially in people who already have heart issues.

Additionally, drug addiction leads to many cardiovascular problems that end up being a lifelong illness. For instance, prolonged misuse of injected drugs can lead to a life-long condition known as endocarditis. It is the infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and heart valves. If the disease is not treated on time, it can lead to permanent damage to the heart valves and even life-threatening complications.

Key Takeaways

In essence, both alcohol and drug abuse can lead to a wide variety of heart issues and diseases, which is just one of the many reasons why these substances should be avoided. Moderate alcohol consumption can be unharmful, as long as it doesn’t lead to chronic drinking.

If you have any follow up questions, feel free to reach out to the Premier Heart and Vascular Center.