How Does Alcohol Affect My Risk Of Getting Heart Failure?

Dr. O'Connell answers the question: 'Can Alcohol Affect Heart Failure Risk?'

— -- Question: How does alcohol affect my risk of getting heart failure?

Answer: Alcohol is a drug that's been around for centuries, and we use it recreationally. We use it as a condiment to our meals, and it is something that's intrinsic to many of our cultures. In fact, alcohol can be protective. Small consumptions of red wine, less than two glasses a day, may very well be protective and prevent us from developing coronary disease long-term. However, if you have heart failure or you are prone to heart failure, it's an entirely different story. Alcohol, when consumed regularly, can have a very serious adverse effect on the heart, resulting in heart muscle abnormalities that long-term will lead to heart failure. That heart failure will continue, despite the medications you receive, unless you discontinue all use of alcohol.

Now that's in individuals who consume it for long periods of time regularly, but even people who binge drink -- and we see that now in the teenagers. In fact, the teenagers and young adults who are using various caffeinated beverages along with alcohol -- that they believe protects them from adverse effects of alcohol -- may actually allow them to consume more alcohol and have more damage to their heart long-term, as well as short-term, where irregularities in the heart rhythm can occur. So as your physician, I can only tell you that it is safe to use alcohol in small quantities and it may even be protective, but regular and large-quantity use of alcohol can be very dangerous and ultimately wind up with very serious heart disease.