All over the world, people are enjoying a drink or two in bars, restaurants, or at home. Sharing a beer or a drink with friends and coworkers after a hard day or while celebrating a wedding or some other accomplishment is a great way to bond. However, when the drinking stops being occasional and becomes a regular habit, that’s when things can get complicated. Consuming large quantities of alcohol, whether too much on a daily basis or large quantities periodically, can lead to issues on both an emotional and medical level. The chance of having a heart attack increases when alcohol use is abused.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, also referred to as a myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. When an artery that feeds blood to the heart (a coronary artery) becomes blocked, it can slow and prevent proper blood flow. Also, part of the blockage can break free and lodge further down the path, preventing blood from getting to the heart, which causes damage to the muscle. Either of these scenarios can cause a heart attack, and a person who thinks they might be having one should call 911 immediately. Although they can be fatal, treatments for heart attacks have vastly improved over the last decade, but immediate treatment is key to recovery.


As we mentioned briefly above, one of the more common causes of a heart attack is the blockage of the coronary arteries. Cholesterol, plaque and other deposits can sit in the arteries and begin to affect proper blood flow. Think of your arteries like a shower drain. If too much hair and other debris clog the drain, the water can’t flow out of the tub. With plaque and cholesterol, it’s the same issue. If a small piece of the clog breaks off (called a clot) and travels to your heart, this can cause even more damage to the heart muscle.

Other heart attack causes can be a virus that attacks the heart muscle, or a genetically weak heart muscle or small veins that don’t feed enough blood to the heart.

How Does Drinking Affect Your Heart?

Although there are studies that show that drinking alcohol can have some benefits, for the most part, abstaining from drinking is an overall better approach. Any benefit alcohol might provide would most likely be negated by a condition that drinking could introduce.

Some of the ways drinking can affect your heart include:

  • Irregular heartbeat: If you don’t typically drink but imbibe during the holidays or on special occasions, atrial fibrillation can occur. The irregular heart rhythm can increase your chances of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. It is also referred to as “holiday heart”.
  • Diabetes and high triglycerides: Alcohol is made up of sugar. If you are a diabetic, adding alcohol to your diet can increase the chances of complications occurring.
  • Hard on your liver: Because of alcohol’s makeup, it has to be filtered through the liver. This can lead to fat deposits gathering in your liver, scarring, and other liver issues.

Does Alcohol Affect Everyone the Same Way?

Alcohol affects people in different ways. For the most part, men can consume more alcohol than women before being considered impaired. Also, a person’s weight and size plays a role in how they handle alcohol. Much of our bodies are water. Water dilutes alcohol, so the more water there is, the more diluted the alcohol becomes. This means a person on a smaller frame will experience more of the effects of alcohol than a person with a larger frame. Another consideration is genetics. Scientists have learned that humans have enzymes that control how alcohol affects the body, but not all humans have the gene that creates the enzymes or can create enough to deal with large amounts of alcohol. Those who have the gene and the enzymes can better handle alcohol than those who do not.

Excessive Drinking and Heart Attack Risk

Drinking to excess is a bad idea for various reasons. It can cause kidney failure and liver damage, as well as an increased level of mental impairment. But another reason is that it’s bad for your heart. Binge drinking is especially bad. Binge drinking is when a person consumes a large quantity of alcohol in a short period of time. It wreaks havoc on a person’s entire body, including increasing blood pressure and causing stress on arteries. This stress can lead to strokes and an increased heart attack risk. And the effects can occur quickly. Unlike damage that builds up over time in a person who drinks in excess on a frequent basis, binge drinking can cause severe damage within hours of the event occurring.

How Much Alcohol is Safe to Drink?

Generally speaking, coming home and unwinding with a beer or two, or a glass of wine, is considered safe for most people. Scientists have stated that one alcoholic beverage for women and two for men per day are within acceptable consumption norms. However, there isn’t a lot of study into the good effects of alcohol, but the negative effects of too much alcohol are prevalent and well-known. Moderation is key, and if you keep this in mind when making your beverage choices, you should be fine with having a few drinks with your friends or at a family gathering. However, drinking more than is recommended, binge drinking, or otherwise abusing alcohol can have long-lasting negative results.

Drinking alcohol isn’t a bad thing. Consuming a drink after work is a good way to wind down and relax after a long day. As long as drinking remains an activity that isn’t necessary and doesn’t involve imbibing too many drinks each night or binging periodically, then cheers and enjoy that can of beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail. However, if a person feels that they need to drink in order to function, then that person should seek medical treatment or assistance.