In times past, there has been a fuss about how a glass of red wine is good for the heart. Over the years, the practice of alcohol consumption has been accepted in almost all regions of the world. While alcohol is believed to have health benefits, there are also downsides and negative impacts of excessive alcohol consumption. This article details how you can maintain the right balance between alcohol and heart health.
The significant intoxicants found in beverages such as beer, wines, and spirits, are psychoactive substances made through the process of fermentation. Alcohols are of different types, but the primary one used in the production of alcoholic drinks (beer, wines, and spirits) is ethyl, commonly known as ethanol.
- Globally, the use of alcohol dates back to prehistoric times – 6000 B.C.
- Consumed for recreational purposes and as a dietary component.
- Used for hygienic/medical purposes.
- Applied for its relaxing effects and other myriad reasons.
No doubt that mild and moderate intake of alcohol has health benefits, but so does regular and excessive intake of alcohol puts one at risk of several heart diseases.
The Impact of Alcohol on Health
The practice of alcohol consumption is common and socially acceptable in most parts of the world. It has been established that the mild consumption of suitable alcohol may play a positive role in human health. Some of these benefits include the reduced risk of heart disease. Other benefits also include the following:
- Prevention of Osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become fragile due to tissue loss, which may be a result of a deficiency in calcium or vitamin D.
- It is used as an analgesic for the relief or reduction of pain.
- The consumption of red wine can help to soothe a cold.
- Alcohol is also widely used as a sedative.
Other non-health benefits of alcohol include its use as both a disinfectant and an antiseptic.
Scientific studies have also shown that the excessive intake of alcohol may result in a variety of health challenges which includes but are not limited to the following:
- Hypertension, which is otherwise known as high blood pressure
- Coronary heart disease – develops when the heart’s arteries become narrowed and unable to provide the organ with adequate oxygen-rich blood, leading to cardiac dysfunction.
- Liver disease – may include fatty liver when there is excessive fatty residue in the liver or liver cirrhosis.
- Cancer – this may develop in literally any organ of the body.
- Mental disorders may include neurodegenerative diseases.
- Loss of minerals such as potassium and sodium.
- Irregular heartbeat and seizures.
More still, the negative impact of excessive alcohol intake may be increased in individuals who have a family history of certain medical conditions. You also need to note that alcohol impacts aging.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that alcohol is one of the major risk factors for premature death and disabilities among individuals between the age of 15-49 years. And it also contributes to 3 million deaths globally every year, with a statistic of 7.1% and 2.2% of the global burden of diseases for both males and females, respectively.
While abstinence from alcohol is still preached as one of the best approaches to healthy living, it is also vital for individuals who cannot abstain to find the right balance. It is, therefore, important to avert the adverse effect of excessive and regular alcohol intake. Finding the right balance for your alcohol intake helps reduce negative consequences while utilizing the health benefits.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Heart Diseases
Research into the relationship between alcohol intake and the risk of heart disease has been explored and is still being investigated. While some studies have proved that the minimal consumption of alcohol offers several health benefits, further studies have also opened up the potential risks to the heart associated with the excessive use of alcohol.
- The dietary guidelines recommend that women limit themselves to no more than one drink per day, while men should limit themselves to no more than two. This dietary guideline, often referred to as moderate alcohol intake, is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
- This reduced risk of heart disease has been linked to the fact that alcohol can increase the amount of High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the good cholesterol. It also reduces the levels of Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as bad cholesterol from the arteries. Studies have reported the presence of Resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that is present in red wine, has a protective effect on the heart.
However, the potential hazards associated with excessive alcohol consumption on the heart have also been studied. Some of these health problems relating to the heart as a result of excessive alcohol consumption include High blood pressure, otherwise known as Hypertension, Stroke, Cardiomyopathy, Atherosclerosis, Heart failure, and even Irregular heartbeats.
Regardless of the facts and figures shown in these studies, it is important to note that the benefits and dangers of alcohol may vary from one person to another based on several factors such as gender, age, genetics, weight, family history, race, and even tolerance rate.
Generally, individuals are always advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle by also finding a balanced approach to their consumption of alcohol.
Finding the Right Balance
Since we have established the fact that the impact of the use of alcohol on the heart can both be good and bad, it is essential to find the right balance for a better heart health.
Creating a balance in your alcohol consumption may mean drinking in moderation for some and even total abstinence for others.
Here are a few tips that can help you drink more responsibly:
- Going for drinks that have minimal alcoholic content.
- Learn about standard drink sizes to help you make better choices
- Do not drink and drive, and also avoid drinking and operating machinery.
- Try to be a slow drinker, do not rush your drink or binge drink.
- Drink water and eat good food while you drink.
Here are also a few tips to help you keep tabs and reduce your intake of alcohol:
- Identify your triggers and find other helpful alternatives.
- You may also seek help from members of your family, trusted friends, or even a professional.
- Use a journal or an app like Sunnyside to track your alcohol consumption.
In the most recent findings of the WHO, they have concluded that in matters of alcohol consumption, there really may be no safe amount concerning one’s health.
It is on this premise that the moderate use of alcohol or total abstinence is encouraged. While reasonable use may pose some health benefits, it is advisable to abstain if possible, because you can still consume other heart-healthy foods and also get these antioxidants from fruits and vegetables that can benefit your heart.
Finally, if you must drink, do it responsibly, try to find a healthy balance, and also use the tips earlier mentioned to track and limit your alcohol intake and also make informed decisions that prioritize your health when it comes to alcohol consumption.