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Though you may look forward to your weekly wine night or thirsty Thursday, alcohol consumption should be practiced in moderation as with any vice. Having too much booze isn’t just problematic for our waistline, but it can also impact other areas of our bodies, including major organs, like our heart. If you ever notice questionable reactions after an evening of drinking, you may need to cut back. Here, a nutrition expert divulges the secret side effects drinking alcohol can have on your body—specifically your heart. Then, for more helpful drinking tips, be sure to read our list of the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are.
1. You will receive cardioprotective antioxidants.
Is being sober truly the best solution for optimal health? Sure, it’s good for you. But, consuming a moderate amount of alcohol (specifically red wine) can actually be good for your heart, says Serena Poon, a celebrity chef and certified nutritionist. But this doesn’t mean a bottle of vino. Instead, Poon says this is generally defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. In fact, certain alcohols provide our body with cardioprotective antioxidants.
“Red wine is a wonderful option for a healthier drink,” Poons explains. “It contains health-supportive polyphenols such as resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, and anthocyanin. Resveratrol, in particular, is an antioxidant shown to support heart health.”
2. Your heartbeat could change.
Those who keep track of their heart rate and pay attention to its natural ebb and flow may be surprised to learn alcohol could significantly impact the rhythm. As Poon explains, regular drinking can lead to the development of atrial fibrillation, a condition defined by irregular heartbeats. This is a dangerous shift since atrial fibrillation is a leading cause of stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular complications.
“The cardioprotective qualities of moderate drinking do not extend to heartbeat regularity. One to two drinks a day could actually be damaging to your heart in this way,” she says.
If you have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, Poon warns that any amount of alcohol can create immediate effects on your heartbeat. Here’s What Happens to Your Heart When You Drink Alcohol.
3. You could experience hypertension.
When our blood pressure is too high, it can lead to hypertension, which increases the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. People who have more than three drinks at a time are more likely to develop hypertension, so it’s essential to be mindful of how many you’re tossing back. This is most important for women to pay attention to since they are more likely to develop hypertension than men.
“The good news is that if you do drink more than the recommended amount, you can lower your blood pressure by decreasing your drinking,” says Poon.
4. Your HDL cholesterol could rise.
If you’re smart and conservative with your boozing, you could actually increase your HDL cholesterol. This is positive since Poon explains it’s considered the “good” type of cholesterol, containing heart-protective qualities.
“The heart-protective benefits of alcohol form a J curve in which moderate alcohol consumption is considered to be more beneficial than both abstention and excessive drinking,” she says.
5. You could experience serious heart problems.
As with anything, excessive alcohol can be hazardous for your overall health. Poon says it can be linked to severe heart problems.
“The quantity of alcohol that you drink is really important,” she says. “While in some circumstances alcohol can be beneficial for heart health, excessive consumption is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular morbidity. And excessive drinking can also cause inflammation, which is a precursor for most chronic diseases.”
While drinking more than one to two drinks per day is often socially acceptable, Poon says you might consider cutting back and seeing how you feel. “I would bet that a decrease in alcohol consumption would support your health in many noticeable and fairly immediate ways,” she adds.