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The Effects of Alcohol on the Heart

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Couple drinking wine and beer

Before uncorking or sipping on your next adult beverage, take time to understand how alcohol affects your heart-health. Too much elevates your risk for serious cardiovascular conditions and other health problems. Excessive drinking is more common in Hawai’i than many other states across the nation. 1 Alcohol consumption, in general, increased in Hawai’i by 23 percent from 2020 to 2021, while most states had a dramatic decrease2. With these high statistics, it is important to know how alcohol impacts the heart and how much alcohol is too much. 

Several of the leading risk factors for heart disease can be influenced by alcohol, including:

  • Blood Pressure: Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Limiting your beverages can help prevent high blood pressure. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor may recommend that you stop drinking alcohol.   
  • Cholesterol: High triglyceride levels can be caused from drinking alcohol. Triglycerides are a fat, which is found in your blood. It can contribute to cholesterol issues when combined with unhealthy levels of high (bad) LDL and low (good) HDL cholesterol. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Obesity: Alcoholic beverages often contain extra calories and added sugars. Mixers, sodas and juices that are part of your favorite drink can increase those numbers too. Over time, these calories can lead to being overweight, obese and diabetes. 

Binge drinking, or having many alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time, can also increase your risk for cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation, cardiac arrest and heart failure. While drinking, you may experience an increase in your heart rate level and a long-term effect of an irregular heartbeat. 

Recommended Limits:

Moderation is important if you choose to consume alcohol. No more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. It is also important to remember that different types of beer, wine, and liquor have different amounts of alcohol. The CDC considers a drink as one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, and 1.5-ounces of spirits such as gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey.3

Many believe that drinking a glass of red wine each day offers health benefits. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology concluded that no amount of alcohol supports your heart health and overall wellness 4 5. There is no reason to start drinking if you do not already consume alcohol. Focus on a healthy diet and physical activity to best care for your heart.

1 https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/ExcessDrink/state/HI

2 https://www.khon2.com/local-news/from-2020-to-2021-hawaii-residents-increased-their-alcohol-consumption-by-23-percent-study/

3 https://www.cdc.gov/drinklessbeyourbest/excessivedrinking.html

4 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/alcohol-and-heart-health

5 https://www.acc.org/Latest-in-Cardiology/Journal-Scans/2023/04/05/16/04/association-between-daily-alcohol

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