Alcohol Abuse and the Heart

Heart disease is all-too-common in the United States, affecting approximately 1 in 12 Americans. Although some of its causes are fairly well understood, most people are not aware of the strong correlation between excessive drinking and heart disease. Whether it’s decades of alcohol abuse or just one night of hitting the bottle, large quantities of alcohol can do damage to the heart, and are potentially life-threatening. On the other side of the coin, research has shown that small amounts of alcohol can actually have a positive effect, and offers a layer of protection against fatal heart problems like coronary artery disease.

Finding out how much alcohol is safe and enjoyable can be a complicated process, so we’ve included some relative information to help you make the decision.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Drinking heavily over a number of years can put stress on the heart muscle, which can eventually begin to weaken. The resulting condition is known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart to become weak and slack, which inhibits its ability to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Organs are not able to receive the steady intake of blood that they require, which can result in damage- or failure- of these organs.

Symptoms that indicate potential cardiomyopathy include difficulty breathing, exhaustion, swollen legs, and an irregular heartbeat. If left untreated, this condition can often cause heart failure and death.


Excessive alcohol use can have negative effects on a person’s heartbeat. The heart has the ability to self-regulate its beats and keeps itself pumping at the right speed to keep a person healthy. Drinking disrupts this process and can cause a person’s heart to beat either too quickly or too slowly. Either effect is extremely dangerous and could cause death.


Strokes can occur when the blood flow to the brain has been cut off. Although not always the case, 80% of strokes happen as a result of blood clots, which are known as ischemic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood has built up either in the brain or in cavities around the brain.

Strokes can occur even after a relatively short period of heavy drinking. Scientific research into strokes and binge drinking has shown that individuals who engage in binge drinking are around 56% more likely than individuals who do not binge drink to have an ischemic stroke. In addition to strokes, those who binge drink have a 39% higher chance of suffering any type of stroke than those who do not binge drink. Alcohol also contributes to problems that can cause strokes, such as arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

As you have seen, even short term alcohol abuse can cause devastating health consequences. Strokes, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, and arrhythmias are just some of the many medical issues that can occur from alcohol abuse, not to mention the slew of psychological and social problems that can happen.

Unfortunately, just having this information is not always enough to persuade an individual to quit drinking. Alcoholism is a powerful illness and can overcome a person’s critical thinking and reasoning abilities. In cases like these, inpatient medical treatment is the most effective treatment course. In this setting, professional clinicians and treatment professionals are needed to break down the barriers that prevent a person from seeing the consequences of their drinking and help them to achieve sustainable sobriety.

Northbound Treatment Services offers intensive inpatient treatment to anyone suffering from an addiction to Alcohol. All treatment plans are created according to the specific needs of the individual client and take into account any dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Northbound also offers additional treatment programs for continued support, including a Christian-based approach, and career-focused treatment.

If someone you love is in need of Alcohol abuse rehab treatment, contact Northbound today!