Holiday Drinking with a Heart Condition: What You Need to Know
Most Americans drink alcohol at least occasionally. Holiday celebrations often emphasize alcohol consumption as part of their rituals. Social drinking, at least, is extremely popular over the holidays. However, if you have a heart condition, it’s essential to approach the season with caution.
It’s a good idea to review your doctor or cardiologist’s recommendations about your heart condition when they diagnose it. If you can’t find these recommendations, it’s not a bad idea to call the cardiologist’s office to ask any questions you might have related to your specific condition. However, cardiologists have some general recommendations for people with heart conditions.
People are much more likely to binge drink over the holidays. However, if you have a heart condition, it’s important to avoid the temptation to have another round just because your uncle or friend is. Overdrinking can lead to heart problems, especially if you have arrhythmia’s personal or family history. Heavy alcohol consumption can trigger palpitations or an arrhythmia attack.
Be aware of the safe limit of weekly alcohol consumption, seven units a week for women and 7-14 units a week for men. If you consume more alcohol on one day, reduce your alcohol consumption on other days. Don’t indulge in binge drinking (4 drinks per session for women, five drinks per session for men), as this can trigger an acute and dangerous heart response.
This can even be a problem at lower levels of alcohol consumption. If you’re a person who doesn’t usually drink alcohol, consuming alcohol over the holidays, combined with overeating, can lead to heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, sometimes called holiday heart syndrome.
Some People Shouldn’t Drink at All
Having a heart condition doesn’t automatically mean you have to quit drinking. However, it’s a good idea for some people with heart conditions to stop drinking entirely.
In particular, if you have developed alcoholic cardiomyopathy – a condition in which your heart muscle weakens because of alcohol consumption – you should consider eliminating alcohol from your diet.
If you’ve previously experienced heart failure, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether, no matter the time of year.
Alcohol Can Interact with Heart Medications
If your cardiologist has prescribed you medications, it’s important to understand that some of these medications may interact with alcohol in damaging ways.
If you take nitroglycerin for angina (heart pain linked to blocked blood vessels), alcohol can lead to a rapid heartbeat, blood pressure changes, dizziness, and fainting. Medications for hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to similar effects when people drink alcohol.
Alcohol tends to thin your blood, so if you’re also taking blood thinners like warfarin, the two can lead to dangerous thinning that can cause internal bleeding.
Many medications are processed in the liver, as is alcohol. This includes statins, which help control cholesterol and are among the most commonly prescribed medications. Statins can damage your liver, so people who consume alcohol and take statins are more likely to experience liver failure.
Factor in Calories from Alcohol
If you have a heart condition, your cardiologist has likely asked that you try to lose weight. Obesity is a strong risk factor for adverse outcomes of heart conditions. Trying to lose weight is hard, and it’s important to be aware of everything you’re consuming. That includes alcohol, which is full of calories, especially if you have mixed drinks, punch, or thick holiday beers.
When trying to control calories, many people forget to factor in the calories from drink, which can contribute heavily to weight gain over the holidays. To avoid this, try not to drink too much, and if you find yourself drinking more when celebrating, drink less at other times.
Get Lifestyle Guidelines from Cardiologists
If you are looking to keep your heart healthy at any time of year, a cardiologist can give you the best idea of accomplishing this. At South Denver Cardiology, we understand that lifestyle modifications are often the best preventive cardiology approach.
In addition to good advice, our cardiologists can recommend diagnostic testing to understand what’s truly going on with your heart.
To talk to a cardiologist today, please call 303-744-1065 or use our online system to request an appointment at South Denver Cardiology’s central office or one of our satellite locations.
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As with any health concerns, your specific treatment program should be discussed thoroughly with your primary care physician as well as any specialists who may need to be consulted – like a cardiologist.Sign Up