Can Alcohol Cause a Heart Attack?

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We know that alcohol can create big problems when it comes to health. But can alcohol cause a heart attack? We have learned from previous articles that alcohol can impair health by damaging the liverheart, and immune system. In addition, alcohol can worsen symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis and COPD.

Let’s learn more about how alcohol impairs your health and increases the risk of a heart attack. If we can understand the impact alcohol has on all parts of our body, we can prioritize wellness and feel more in control.

Are you worried alcohol is impacting your health? You don’t have to wait until serious risks or complications arise. Please reach out to Guardian Recovery. We have a team of experts with over two decades of experience with addiction recovery. When you contact us, you will speak with a Treatment Advisor. Not only can they help guide you through our process with compassion, but they can also help complete a comprehensive and individualized plan to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to do this alone. Please reach out to Guardian Recovery today.

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Increasing Blood Pressure

It has been established that excessive alcohol can increase high blood pressure or hypertension. It is still unclear how alcohol raises blood pressure, but some theories exist.

Alcohol can create an imbalance in the central nervous system, increasing cortisol levels and hormones, which can cause blood vessels to constrict.

If blood pressure is high, monitoring and seeking treatment can help prevent significant health issues from occurring, such as heart attack or stroke. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please seek medical attention.

Signs of High Blood Pressure: 

  • Severe headache.
  • Nosebleed.
  • Fatigue or confusion.
  • Vision problems.
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Blood in urine.

Affecting Diet Habits

Alcohol impacts people’s choices in food, may decrease or increase overall food intake, and alcohol depletes the body of vital nutrients such as B vitamins. Significant neurological impairments can occur over years of vitamin deficiencies and excessive alcohol use. However, one crucial factor that can occur with poor dietary habits is the strain on the body and heart. People may gain excessive weight with alcohol use and diet. Obesity increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Affecting Exercise Habits

Alcohol consumption increases insulin which decreases glucose levels or blood sugar. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar is too low. We need normal blood sugar levels to have the energy to complete most physical activities. In addition, alcohol also impairs coordination, balance, and motor skills, which increases the risk of injury or accident. When a person limits physical activity, this raises the risk of increased weight and puts more strain on the body leading to a higher risk of a heart attack.

Alcohol’s Impact on Organs Increases Heart Attack Risk

Drinking alcohol in excess has been found to damage the structure and function of the heart, increasing a person’s risk of heart attack and heart failure. A particular disease, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, is a serious disease in which the heart structure becomes enlarged, the heart muscle weakens, and the heart beats out of sync when trying to pump blood. All of these diseases can be fatal if not treated when symptoms arise. When multiple organs are damaged from alcohol use, this puts additional strain on the body to function. Research indicated that patients with multi-organ failure with acute heart disease lead the poorest outcomes upon hospital admission.

Alcohol and Heart Conduction

Disturbances with heart conduction and arrhythmias are associated with alcoholic cardiomyopathy. In addition, a research article reported that alcohol causes immediate effects on the heart. This may be especially concerning for people who drink alcohol with heart diseases such as Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). AFib is a heart condition in which the heart beats very fast and irregularly, increasing the risk of a blood clot or stroke. There are 12 million people in the US diagnosed with AFib. This condition leads to 454,000 hospitalizations yearly and 158,000 deaths each year. In the research article, scientists produced arrhythmias with alcohol consumption. This immediate impact alcohol has on arrhythmias is a significant concern for people’s ability to manage symptoms of AFib.

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Alcohol and the Gastrointestinal Tract

Alcohol is found to damage the mucus cells in the stomach and increase inflammation, leading to ulcers and stomach bleeding. In addition, alcohol can delay stomach emptying, which can cause abdominal discomfort after eating. Finally, alcohol commonly causes gastritis. Gastritis is a painful GI condition that occurs when the acidity of alcohol increases inflammation in the lining of the stomach.

Alcohol and Kidney Function

Both acute and chronic alcohol use can impair kidney function, especially if the liver disease has already begun. Regular alcohol use damages the kidneys by reducing the volume of electrolytes and fluid in the body. Additionally, alcohol impacts the acidity balance in the body. Finally, with limited sodium and fluid retention, these structural changes can lead to kidney failure.

Alcohol and the Vascular System

Heavy alcohol use can damage the cardiovascular system. This damage results in heart muscle disorders, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and stroke. According to this research article, higher levels of alcohol consumption lead to a 3x higher likelihood of peripheral artery disease, a 27% increased risk of a stroke, and a link to atrial fibrillation and aortic aneurysm.

Recovering From an Alcohol-Related Heart Attack

The first course of action in treating an alcohol-related heart attack is to abstain from alcohol entirely. To refrain from alcohol, one can succeed with a supportive network that can help treat alcohol addiction.

To safely treat alcohol addiction, a medical team must monitor one’s health, symptoms, and detoxification response. The medical team’s support will ensure safety while going through treatment. No one wants to go through this process alone. Having an experienced and supportive team will allow you to feel supported, safe, and successful as you take this step toward recovery.

In addition to treating your alcohol addiction, the treatment team will be taking a holistic approach toward recovery. A person’s treatment plan includes focusing on mental health, family relationships, ensuring a healthy diet, exercise, and medication management to improve or reduce symptoms.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder or are concerned you may have health problems related to alcohol use; please contact us today. When receiving a diagnosis of alcohol-related heart disease, the best way to take care of yourself is to seek medical attention, assess the disease’s severity, and identify treatment options. A focused approach to individual treatment is critical for long-term success.

Guardian Recovery is ready to meet you where you are in your recovery journey. A free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check can be completed at your request. Please contact us today and begin your journey toward wellness.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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