Alcohol and Heart Health Facts to Know for the Holidays

alcohol and heart health

“May your days be merry and bright.”  We’re entering the season of celebration with Christmas and New Year’s quickly approaching, and for many, making things merry and bright includes alcohol.  Whether it’s festive eggnog, toasting with champagne or a glass of wine with dinner, this time of year brings more occasions to drink than any other.  Of course, it is perfectly acceptable for most to enjoy a drink here and there, but there are also important precautions that need to be taken, particularly when it comes to protecting the heart.

Red Wine is the Healthiest Option

Abstaining from drinking altogether is by far the healthiest option for anyone, regardless of age or medical history.  However, if enjoying an alcoholic beverage, red wine is the optimal choice.  Studies have shown that the antioxidants in red wine can help prevent coronary artery disease and an ingredient called resveratrol may offer cholesterol lowering benefits as well. 

Alcohol Should be Enjoyed in Moderation

There are many things we can overindulge in, and alcohol is one of them.  It’s easy to have too much to drink and to feel the ill effects the following day, but regularly drinking to excess can result in longer-lasting and more serious consequences as well.  For instance, the greater the amount of alcohol consumed at once, the higher the heart rate.  This spike can be dangerous or even life threatening to those with pre-existing heart conditions or arrhythmias.  In fact, irregular heart rhythms as a result of overindulging this time of year have become so common that it is coined as holiday heart syndrome.

Age May Determine How Much You Can Drink

Even if you could hold your own and enjoyed a high alcohol tolerance in your younger years, those days won’t last forever.  Regardless of how much you may have drunk in the past, getting older means that tolerance declines and alcohol sensitivity increases.  As a result, the risks associated with alcohol consumption, particularly in large amounts, are an even bigger threat to older adults.

Medications May Add to the Risk of Drinking

Patients who are taking medication, whether prescription or not, should be concerned with the potential risks of mixing those drugs with alcohol.  While many are harmless, some pose serious threats when combined with drinking.  For example, many medications associated with cardiovascular conditions such as blood thinners and blood pressure or cholesterol lowering drugs can lead to arrhythmia, liver damage, or internal bleeding when taken with alcohol.  It is vital to understand each medication you take, it’s restrictions and potential side effects.  If you aren’t sure, it is always best to assume that your drugs cannot be mixed with alcohol.

The holidays should be an enjoyable time spent with family and friends, and for many that may include having a drink or two.  However, it is important that you fully understand all the consequences that drinking may pose for your health, particularly if you are already diagnosed with a heart condition.  To put your mind at ease and ensure your safety, speak with your physician before drinking this holiday season.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff