Heavy Alcohol Consumption Increases Chance of Heart Disease
SAN ANGELO, TX - February is American Heart Month, so in honor of that, LIVE! decided to look into studies that prove drinking at an early age can lead to various health issues that appear more frequently later on in life.
The study, reported from the U.S. News and World Report, shows men in their 60s have three health conditions, on average, while non-drinkers reported only two.
These health conditions include heart disease and diabetes. The report also showed that the score for heavy drinkers' scale for depression were about twice as high as non-drinkers. For more, click here.
A statistic from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported from a 2008 survey found that about 40 percent of adults ages 65 and older drink alcohol. Health risks can be heightened when drinks are taken with certain medication. For more, visit here.
Older adults have a lower tolerance for alcohol, according the NIAAA report. The effects of alcohol are quicker to affect motor skills of older adults making them more susceptible to falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries as a result of drinking.
This study depicts the hidden consequences of heavy drinking during adulthood and the many health problems caused by alcohol.
Diseases Caused by Alcohol
Dr. Samia Benslimane, M.D., with the Shannon Regional Heart Center, who specializes in cardiovascular diseases, talked about some of these connections to alcohol and heart failure.
“The effects of moderate alcohol consumption are more cumulative over time,” Benslimane said.
She gave the example that if a person drinks heavily in his or her 20s but stops later in life, then the health effects are less likely to transfer into the person's 60s compared to someone who continues to drink consistently throughout his or her life.
She noted that people don’t have to drink every day to experience increased chance of heart disease; it can appear from drinking a few times a month with binge drinking.
Even at a young age, depending on how much alcohol is consumed, some people can still show signs of heart disease early on.
The most common forms of the diseases appear in chronic moderate drinking or in binge drinking. The disease atrial fibrillation (causing arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm) leads to strokes if not diagnosed or treated, according to Benslimane.
The fear with atrial fibrillation is someone can go on without knowing he or she has an irregular heartbeat, and with it, the increased chance of stroke. She explained these conditions are all increased in risk when patients have a heavy alcohol consumption.
Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart muscle) is another disease that can show regardless of age, and essentially causes issues with drinking if the patient has a weak heart.
“Alcohol can be toxic to the heart, directly causing the heart to become dilated and get weaker,” Benslimane said.
To reduce the chance of these conditions appearing, she recommends even young drinkers to consume alcohol at a moderate rate.
The above conditions are also a real fear for those people in their 60s as well. Moderate to high alcohol consumption can also cause cardiovascular disease, which is not related to the heart specifically. This can be shown by the aorta artery (artery that carries and distributes oxygen-rich blood) in the body, and, if aortic dilation happens, it can carry the risk of rupture because of increased alcohol consumption.
She explained this can be fatal indefinitely if not diagnosed right away. Put simply, it's a “silent disease” that can rupture without the person even knowing it was there.
Other symptoms of heavy drinking can be clogged arteries in a person’s legs or other areas of the body. Stroke stands out to Benslimane as a serious possibility for moderate to high alcohol consumption as well.
Now, moderate drinking is defined as more than one or two drinks a week, according to Benslimane. Three to four drinks every day is considered excessive by health standards.
“One glass of wine or beer a day is not considered harmful, but taking breaks once in a while is needed for the body to cleanse the [alcohol],” Benslimane said.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) was one of the last conditions she named to come from moderate to high alcohol consumption.
Reducing The Risk of These Conditions
The most common approach to reduce these conditions is to reduce alcohol consumption, with the incentive being the need to take medication if diagnosed with high blood pressure.
“I tell my patients, 'The better you can do with controlling alcohol consumption, the less I can do with prescribing pills,'” Benslimane said. “That’s usually a good incentive.”
Hypertension is a less serious diagnosis when compared to stroke or heart diseases, so the more serious the condition, the more motivation patients show to control their drinking habits.
“The problem is when the alcohol use for the person is more of a habit and part of their daily living; it's harder to quit because it becomes more of a use dependence issue,” Benslimane said.
Alcohol Dependence is a Disease
This is a good transition into the counseling offered in Tom Green County to help those with alcohol dependence. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council for the Concho Valley (ADACCV) strives to help those with addiction.
Eric Sanchez, CEO of the ADACCV, talked about heavy drinking and the damage it causes for those addicted to alcohol.
He made it clear that it is an addiction and it's important patients get the referrals needed to help them, like an immediate detox program if necessary.
“It is an addiction and it erodes the person’s wellbeing; it erodes the family and all their outline resources like jobs, friends and social networks,” Sanchez said.
After reaching out to the ADACCV, an appointment will be set for individuals to find out how severe the addiction is and if immediate detox treatment is needed. The ADACCV will assist in finding a detox program that is affordable in the state of Texas for those those who don’t have health insurance. Detox programs are available locally for those with insurance or those who can pay by going to a local hospital.
“The nature of the disease is it deteriorates the person’s ability to work and to maintain a job,” Sanchez explained. “So, if they did have health insurance though their job, they have lost it.”
He explained by the time most people reach out to ADVACC it has already reached that point. It’s at this time where patients are at their most vulnerable and it has become a necessary need for change.
Sanchez hopes people can start to realize the signs early and reach out to them before it gets drastic.
“They can be at a functioning level with the disease,” Sanchez said. “Though there is a functioning level that’s tolerable, it makes it easier to go day-to-day.”
He explained this pattern will continue unless action is taken early on.
It’s encouraged that if someone knows of a friend or relative who deals with these drinking habits, and they need to get the help, contact ADACCV through email or by calling the office.
The main point of contact is 325-224-3481, and a 24-hour crisis hotline is available by calling 800-880-9641. They can also be contacted through the website's email by clicking here. These servers are checked regularly and have fast response times. The office is located at 3553 W Houston Harte Expy., and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ADACCV handles cases like this on a daily basis and works with families during these challenging times to provide the help they need for their loved ones.
“It’s something that they don’t need to carry alone,” Sanchez said. “We do want our community to hear that this is what we are here for.”