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How High Alcohol Consumption Can Affect Your Health and Heart

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We know that no one wants to hear this but here goes – drinking is bad for you. While studies in the past have proven that a moderate intake of alcohol might actually help to guard against heart attack and stroke1,2, recent guidelines now suggest that risks associated with alcohol consumption can start from any level of regular drinking, and rise with the amount being consumed3! But don’t panic just yet, because BUPA GLOBAL is here to tell us all about alcohol consumption and heart health, so that you can go out and enjoy a tipple or two, while still staying healthy all year round.


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How Much Do You Really Drink?

The first tip to a successful and healthy self is to be honest and realistic about how much and how often you drink. Keeping an eye on your units (the size and strength of your drinks) is a valuable safeguard to your heart health. Alcohol by volume (ABV) indicates how many units there are in a drink, and since this metric of measurement can vary significantly between different drinks, it pays to be aware.

“It’s easy to underestimate how much you are drinking,” says Bupa Medical Director, Dr Amit Sethi. “The average bottle of wine used to be 10 percent ABV. Now, 15 to 16 percent ABV is not unusual – a level that used to be classed as fortified wine. We also tend to think we get seven or eight glasses out of a bottle of wine, but in reality most people will get around three or four large glasses”.

With the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption now no more than 14 units for both women and men3, it would be easy to use up all your units for the week on just one to two bottles of wine, so this is something to be aware of.


Alcohol and Heart Health

A consistent consumption of 40 alcohol units per week increases the likelihood of cirrhosis – permanent liver scarring. Heavy drinking over a long period of time can also increase your risk of developing heart disease. This is because high alcohol consumption can contribute to raised LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, which may combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque deposits that narrow arteries and block blood flow.

Excessive drinking can also contribute to potential weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of high blood pressure – one of the most important risk factors for a heart attack or stroke. Drinking at this level can also weaken the heart muscle, a condition known as cardiomyopathy, which can lead to heart failure4.


Tips for Drinking Responsibly

  • Avoid alcohol for 48 hours if you’ve recently had too much to drink – this allows your body time to recover.
  • Avoid heavy or binge drinking. Don’t “save up” your units to drink in one go – having seven drinks on one day and none for the rest of the week does not have the same health implications as having one drink a day5.

Sources

1. Harvard (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/alcohol-full-story/) & (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking), last accessed in December 2015

2. Goldberg IJ, Mosca L, Piano MR, Fisher EA. AHA Science Advisory: Wine and your heart: a science advisory for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Council on Cardiovascular Nursing of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001; 103:472–5.

3. GOV.UK (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-alcohol-guidelines-show-increased-risk-of-cancer), last accessed in January 2015

4. British Heart Foundation (https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/preventing-heart-disease/alcohol), last accessed in December 2015

5. Harward (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/alcohol-full-story/), last accessed in December 2015



DISCLAIMER: This article was designed and produced by Bupa Global by searching internal and external data and information for information provision and reference purposes only. Any views or information mentioned and set out in this article/webpage are based on general situations. Readers should not regard them as medical advices or medical recommendations. Before making any decisions about the theme of this article, you are recommended to seek independent advice from suitable professionals (such as doctors, nutritionists, etc.). It is clearly stated that Bupa Global will not bear any responsibilities for others’ usage or interpretation of the information listed in this article. When preparing and/or updating this article, Bupa Global endeavours to ensure that the content is accurate, complete and updated but will not bear any responsibilities nor make any warranty or guarantee for the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information or for any claims and/or losses caused thereby.

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