Alcohol and Heart Disease

Alcohol and Heart DiseaseAlcohol is a toxic product that is hazardous to health. Red wine protects the heart and blood vessels. These two opposing statements, which can be found in popular science literature, are aroused by heated debate among supporters and opponents of alcohol consumption.

Effect of ethanol on the human body

Alcohol (or ethanol, ethyl alcohol) is the basis of all alcoholic beverages. It is a foreign substance that is toxic to humans, and when it enters the body, it is exposed to the complex process of splitting into harmless constituents by the action of enzymes. This process occurs mainly in the liver. However, as a result of numerous biochemical reactions to neutralize ethanol, an intermediate product produces a very active and much more toxic than alcohol, a chemical compound – acetaldehyde, the further efforts of which are directed to further breakdown of the body. The danger lies in the fact that these efforts are not always sufficient to neutralize the harmful effects of a toxic substance. The effectiveness of the body in this direction depends mainly on the amount of alcohol consumed, associated risks, as well as the individual characteristics of a person (heredity, health, etc.).
According to experts, it is ethanol and acetaldehyde that are the toxic compounds that cause the main harm to the body when drinking alcohol. Their impact entails negative changes in all organs and systems, provoking various diseases. Proved is the relationship of excessive and even moderate alcohol use with the development of cancer lesions:

  • oral cavity, pharynx, larynx;
  • esophagus;
  • mammary gland;
  • the liver;
  • colon and rectum.

Alcohol abuse can also provoke:

  • cardiovascular diseases;
  • cirrhosis of the liver;
  • decrease in mental abilities, weakening of memory, depression;
  • type 2 diabetes;
  • addiction formation – alcoholism.

Alcohol and heart disease

The use of significant doses of alcohol has serious consequences for the cardiovascular system. The effect of ethanol and its metabolic product, acetaldehyde, which is dangerous for the heart and blood vessels, is manifested in the following processes in the body:

  • dehydration and thickening of the blood, which seriously increases the load on the heart, contributes to thrombus formation, and over time and blockage of blood vessels;
  • a gradual decrease in the elasticity of blood vessels, increasing their fragility;
    development of hypertension;
  • heart rhythm disturbance due to intoxication;
  • gradual hypertrophy (excessive proliferation) of the heart muscle, which hampers its normal functioning.

These processes, which are the result of the toxic effect of alcohol, entail the development of diseases of the heart and blood vessels: cardiomyopathy, heart attacks and strokes. Studies have also shown that high doses of ethanol increase the resistance of cells to insulin and thus interfere with the normal absorption of glucose, resulting in an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And diabetes is known to be a serious risk factor for heart health.

The effect of low doses of alcohol on the heart

According to WHO statistics, indicators of the state of the cardiovascular system in moderate drinkers are more favorable than in those who abuse alcohol or do not drink at all. It is the small portions of alcohol, which the body successfully copes with, beneficially affect the heart and blood vessels, as indicated by numerous studies. Ethanol taken in such quantity:

  • dilates blood vessels, relieves spasm;
  • dilutes the blood, improving blood flow and preventing blood clots;
  • increases the level of high-density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol), which prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and the development of atherosclerosis;
  • normalizes glucose metabolism, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes;
  • strengthens the walls of blood vessels (red wine).

The effect of ethanol on the heart is dose-dependent: while small doses contribute to the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system, a large amount of alcohol destroys it. Therefore, even a slight excess of the relatively safe dose of alcohol is fraught with health problems.

Picture Credit: PhotoMIX-Company

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