Excessive alcohol consumption harms your heart

By June Shannon Heart News   |   18th Nov 2019

High blood pressure is one of the most common alcohol-related health problems

This week (Monday 18th to Friday 22nd of November) is Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm and this year the HSE is encouraging people to look at their relationship with alcohol by taking the self-assessment test on AskAboutAlcohol.ie.

Excessive alcohol consumption can badly affect heart health as it can increase the heart rate and blood pressure while its calorie content also contributes to weight gain.

Alcohol also increases the chance of developing cardiac arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation). This is in addition to all the other deleterious effects alcohol has on our health including an increased risk of cancer.

Nearly one million people in Ireland have high blood pressure, a major cause of heart attack or stroke, and last year almost 9,000 people died from cardiovascular disease in Ireland.

High blood pressure usually comes with an even bigger problem — a lack of symptoms.

High blood pressure is one of the most common alcohol-related health problems, but many people don’t realise they have it.

Drinking too much alcohol over time raises blood pressure, which means the heart must work harder to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure can significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart disease; it can affect how quickly a heart beats (arrhythmias); and can even cause the heart muscles to weaken leading to a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

" Drinking too much alcohol over time raises blood pressure, which means the heart must work harder to pump blood around the body,"

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Research shows that more than 50 per cent of people in Ireland drink in a way that could be causing harm so it is not surprising that lots of people have some worries or nagging doubts about their drinking and wonder if it would be a good idea to change the way they drink.

The Self-Assessment Tool on the HSE’s AskAboutAlcohol.ie website is designed to help people understand more about the impact their drinking is having on their lives. The feedback can help determine whether your relationship is within the low risk area, or whether you are overdoing it and need to act.

A total of 14,337 people used the tool between April 2017 and March 2019. Question topics included age, gender, how often respondents drink alcohol, how many alcoholic drinks they have on a typical day, and how often they drink six or more standard drinks on a single occasion.

The Health Research Board (HRB) analysed the outputs from the self-assessment. Of those who completed the self-assessment test, almost a third were identified as hazardous/risky drinkers (30.9%) a further 15% were identified as harmful drinkers, and over a quarter (26.5%), were classified as having probable alcohol dependence.

According to Claire O ‘Dwyer of the Health Research Board (HRB), ‘’the majority of 14,000 respondents to the askaboutalcohol.ie self-assessment tool indicated a harmful or hazardous pattern of drinking. A very important element of the tool is that it provides people with advice and support through a video with tailored feedback, depending on their risk level.”

The Self-Assessment Tool is based on the World Health Organisation Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), a ten-item tool used to screen for alcohol problems. According to the WHO, hazardous drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption that increases the risk of harmful consequences for the user or others. Harmful drinking refers to alcohol consumption that results in consequences to physical and mental health.

If you would like to make a change, AskAboutAlcohol.ie has advice on cutting down and information on the benefits of drinking less, how to overcome any doubts you might have and information on why it’s better to take action sooner rather than later if drinking could be causing you problems.

For more information on your heart health and alcohol please see here.

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Related Topics

alcohol alcohol harm alcohol. heart. stroke arrhythmia heart attack high blood pressure stroke

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