Alcohol and Heart Conditions

Most people are familiar with alcohol’s negative impacts on the brain, liver, and kidneys, but many do not understand the risks that alcohol abuse carries for the heart. These risks are exacerbated by the amount of alcohol a user consumes and the frequency of consumption.

Healthy Heart Functions

In order to understand the way alcohol abuse affects the heart, it’s important to understand how the human heart is constructed. The heart is comprised of four chambers: two upper chambers known as atria and two lower chambers referred to as ventricles. These four chambers allow blood to flow through the heart in one direction at any given time. In order for this process to stay consistent, the four chambers must beat in an organized rhythm.

With each heartbeat, the human heart pumps blood out of its four chambers and through the body’s circulatory system. Although that pace may fluctuate based on a person’s health or physical activity, the rhythm largely stays consistent. Health concerns arise when the pace of a heartbeat becomes erratic or irregular.

Cardiac Arrhythmia

The term “arrhythmia” refers to any irregularity in a heartbeat that disrupts the typical organized rhythm of the heart’s beating. Although many people experience very brief arrhythmias, such as a quickened heartbeat or a temporary pause, these small disruptions don’t impact the human heart rate in a significant way. The heart cannot pump blood effectively, however, when such an irregularity continues for an extended period of time.

Types of Cardiac Arrhythmia

  • Premature atrial contractions. These are early extra beats that start in the heart’s upper chambers, called the atria. …
  • Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). …
  • Atrial fibrillation. …
  • Atrial flutter. …
  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT). …
  • Accessory pathway tachycardias.

 

A heart rate exceeding 100 beats per minute is referred to as tachycardia, while a heart rate below 60 beats per minute is called bradycardia. Since the heart is responsible for carrying blood and oxygen to the rest of the body, these conditions can contribute to several significant health problems.

A single or short series of irregular beats may be felt as a palpitation or fluttering sensation, whereas a longer lasting arrhythmia can result in fatigue, chest pain, lightheadedness or even cardiac arrest.

The most common treatment for arrhythmia in older patients is the installation of a pacemaker. These small devices are implanted and send regular electrical pulses to keep the heart beating regularly. In other cases, a doctor may prescribe blood pressure medication.

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