Studies about cardiovascular disease and alcohol consumption can sometimes be confusing. When does alcohol consumption benefit heart health and when does it do harm? Mercy Heart Center’s Mary Bosyj provides some insight specifically for heart failure patients.
Heart failure is a major public health issue that affects our country with about 500,000 Americans newly diagnosed per year. Despite the advances in treatment, mortality is still high. Therefore, the importance of primary prevention is still our best defense. Alcohol consumption is a modifiable lifestyle factor that appears to play a role in the development of heart failure.
Excessive drinking of alcohol is known to lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy while light-to-moderate drinking may offer some cardiovascular benefits. Hence, the recent studies suggest it is not only quantity but drinking patterns and genetics that influence the relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease like heart failure.
In light of these studies, it is difficult to determine the correct amount and frequency and genetic make-up that provides cardiovascular benefits as with heart failure patients or otherwise can have detrimental effects. Among alcoholic patients, abstinence leads to improved survival in patients with alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Alcohol has a negative effect on the heart muscle cells and can lead to depressed myocardial contractibility (heart contractions); thus a weakened heart known as heart failure.
The effect of light-to-moderate drinking in predicting mortality and co-morbidity among individuals with heart failure needs to be studied more to fully understand the relationship. For individuals who do not consume any alcohol, it would be premature to recommend light-to-moderate drinking as a means to lower the risk of heart failure, given the possible risk of abuse and resulting consequences.
Modifying personal lifestyles offers the opportunity of better health, which brings freedom very few realize.
As always, consulting your healthcare provider for specific advice on alcohol consumption is the recommendation.