While some evidence suggests that drinking a small amount of alcohol can be good for you, it’s important to remember that the more you drink, the higher your risk of heart disorders and disease.
The effect of alcohol on your heart depends on your age, your general health and the amount and pattern of your drinking.
Long-term and heavy drinking is linked with:
- Cardiomyopathy: drinking excessive amounts of alcohol alcohol above moderation can weaken the heart muscle and stop it from pumping blood efficiently.
- High blood pressure: blood pressure increases with each standard alcoholic drink. Blood pressure can decrease within two to four weeks after you stop drinking alcohol or when you reduce your intake. Your genes also influence how high your blood pressure rises when you drink.
- Stroke: drinking heavily or excessive amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of stroke (especially cerebral haemorrhage due to ruptured blood vessels). Women are more susceptible than men.
If you are a heavy drinker, you have an increased risk of heart disorders.
Binge drinking can cause acute cardiovascular effects such as heartbeat irregularities, leading to shortness of breath and chest pain. The effects are reversible if you stop drinking or greatly reduce the amount you drink.
Reported benefits of moderate alcohol
Some evidence suggests drinking a small amount of alcohol can have a protective effect against stroke (specifically ischemic) for women and heart disease (specifically ischemaemic) for men. However, it is important to remember that you shouldn’t take up drinking just to get the health benefits.
For more information about the effects of alcohol on your body, check out our interactive tool.