The vast majority of individuals believe that binge drinking is safe, and many even think that it is essential to having fun. Others don’t view alcohol as a narcotic and even think that binge drinking is beneficial to our hearts. Alcohol consumption, however, is more harmful than beneficial, and long-term excessive drinking puts the heart at greater danger and may raise your risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
What is alcoholic cardiomyopathy?
Alcohol abuse frequently results in hypertension (high blood pressure), which weakens the heart muscles and impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. To accommodate more blood, the heart enlarges and thins down, which has an impact on how well the blood and heart muscles work. Heart failure may arise from untreated hypertension if it is not addressed in a timely manner.
When drinking alcohol for an extended period of time, a condition known as cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart’s muscles, can develop. Long-term untreated cardiomyopathy increases the risk of congestive heart failure and can become potentially lethal. It also increases the likelihood of irregular heartbeats. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with this ailment than women are, and it is typically detected in patients between the ages of 35 and 50.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that can develop in people who have consumed large amounts of alcohol for five to fifteen years or longer. Women who drink more than three drinks per day or seven drinks per week typically fall into the heavy drinking group and are more likely to develop alcoholic cardiomyopathy than males who consume more than 14 drinks per week or four drinks per day.
What are the signs and symptoms?
While alcoholic cardiomyopathy does not show any signs or symptoms until it enters the advanced stage. However, patients who are in the advanced stage showcase the followings signs –
Shortness of breath while resting or exertion
Swelling of legs, feet, and ankles
Changes in urine
Loss of appetite
Difficulty in concentrating
Weakness, Dizziness, Fainting and Lightheadedness
Pink mucus discharge while coughing and coughing while lying down
Abdominal bloating due to build-up of fluid
Pain in the chest
What are the causes of cardiomyopathy?
The causes of cardiomyopathy are often unknown but, in some cases, doctors can identify the possible factors that can cause cardiomyopathy which include –
Increased heart rate and long-term blood pressure
Problems in heart valves
Damage in heart tissue due to a previous attack
Heavy Alcoholism and illicit drug use
Obesity, thyroid, and other disorders
Complications in pregnancy
What is the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy?
The doctors will conduct the following tests to detect if you are suffering from cardiomyopathy –
Chest X-Ray test to detect the enlargement in the heart
Echocardiogram to analyze the functioning of the heart valves. In case this is not helping the doctor may also perform Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect any blockages in the heart and abnormalities in heartbeats
Treadmill stress test is performed to check if exercise is aggravating abnormal heart rhythms
Cardiac Catheterisation is performed to check if the heart is forcefully pumping the blood in the body
CT scans are performed to assess the size and functioning of the heart and its valves
Blood tests are performed to assess the iron levels in the body and to check the thyroid, kidney, and liver function
To check if the disease is congenital, the doctors also perform a genetic test to check if the condition is hereditary in parents and siblings.
What are the treatment options for cardiomyopathy?
The treatment options for cardiomyopathy vary depending on the type and severity of the condition.
In cases of dilated cardiomyopathy, the doctors may treat the condition by prescribing medications to improve heart function. However, if the condition turns severe then our doctor may recommend surgical implants.
In restrictive cardiomyopathy, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower blood pressure and will recommend paying attention to high blood pressure levels, monitoring salt and water intake and keeping a track of your body weight.
In severe cases of cardiomyopathy, your doctor will recommend Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) or a heart transplant.
What measures can you adopt to keep alcoholic cardiomyopathy at bay?
There are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy
Restrict or practice complete abstinence from alcohol
Reduce or cut down on sodium intake
Limit your fluid intake to reduce the pressure on your heart
Get ample exercise and if you have a heart condition or if you are a heart patient then you should avoid strenuous workout
Abstain from smoking
Limit the intake of sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods
Maintain a healthy BMI
How much is too much?
While some studies have defined binge drinking or occasional drinking good for health, however, avoiding alcohol is best. It is not a wise idea to start drinking alcohol to reduce the risk of heart disease. Instead, one must find different alternatives like doing yoga etc. that are beneficial for health.
In simpler terms, drinking alcohol is just not worth it and its potential small benefits to our heart are outweighed by its increased risk of developing serious illnesses like cancer or liver diseases. Therefore, if you wish to live a long and healthy life then you should opt for safer ways like regular exercise, a healthy diet, etc. to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
(Dr Pradeep Kumar D, Sr Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore)