Effects of alcohol on the human heart?  

Expert Answers
kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Long-term or heavy binge drinking can cause a number of health troubles. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a condition where the muscles of the heart become weakened when someone drinks on a long term basis or in high volume. The muscles of the heart cannot contract effectively and in turn the heart cannot supply adequate blood and oxygen to the body. 

Drinking can also cause heart arrhythmias, where the muscles of the heart try to contract and either "hiccup" in their contraction or do not contract at all. Sometimes the electrical impulse for contraction circulates in the heart too many times, and the heart has too many short contractions and does not fill up with fresh blood.

Drinking can cause strokes or exacerbate other conditions which cause strokes. Alcohol thins the blood and can loosen blood clots, which are carried throughout the vascular system and may get stuck.

Alcohol is primarily a vasodilator, which means when people drink alcohol their blood vessels relax. When someone drinks too much alcohol (either in one instance or over a long time) it becomes a vasoconstrictor and causes blood vessels to squeeze tighter. This is triggered by stress hormones in the body. Because of this vasoconstricting response, heavy drinking can cause high blood pressure.

Research does suggest that in people over forty-five years of age, drinking a small amount of wine on a regular basis can help keep blood levels of good and bad cholesterol in check.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question