Heart Health Blogs

Uncorking the truth: Alcohol and Heart Health

Alcohol – it’s a topic that sparks both celebration and concern. While many enjoy the occasional drink as a social potion or a way to unwind after a long day, the impact of alcohol consumption on our health, particularly on heart health, is a subject of ongoing debate. But do you know why, or what alcohol does to our hearts, heads and health? Here we explain the link between alcohol and our wellbeing and what every drink is doing to our bodies.

Australian health guidelines recommend healthy adults have no more than four standard drinks in one day and no more than 10 drinks per week.

In reality, many Aussies are drinking much more than that and have little awareness of what every drink is doing to their health.

Australians and alcohol

A cold beer at a backyard BBQ. A glass of fizz to toast a special occasion. A fun cocktail on a night out. A big red with the perfect steak.

Alcohol, in one form or another, seems to be the perfect punctuation to social occasions. But many of us are drinking too much.

  • 77% of us aged 14 years and over consumed alcohol last year
  • 42% of treatment for drug issues in publicly funded programs are for alcohol
  • Alcohol-induced deaths increased by almost 8% from 2020 to 2021
  • More than 6% of us drink 11 or more standard drinks in one day more than once a month.1https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview

Do you know what a standard drink is?

Whether you’re drinking beer, wine or spirits, knowing what a standard drink looks like can help you stay within recommended limits. Learn more here.

Standard drink in Australia

How does alcohol damage our hearts?

Alcohol is a risk factor for many serious health conditions including heart disease.2https://aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/alcohol/overview#:~:text=Over%20the%20longer%20term%2C%20harmful,health%20problems%20and%20various%20cancers. But why?

Alcohol is linked to heart attacks and heart problems because it can raise your blood pressure, which in turn can increase your risk of coronary artery disease, arrhythmias and heart failure.3https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058254#:~:text=Drinking%20too%20much%20alcohol%20can,term%20increases%20in%20blood%20pressure. Alcohol can also increase stress hormones in the body which also raise blood pressure and heart rate.4https://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/alcohol-and-your-health/long-term-health-effects/cardiovascular-disease#:~:text=Alcohol%20impacts%20receptors%20in%20blood,factor%20for%20high%20blood%20pressure

While just three standard drinks will raise blood pressure temporarily, binge drinking can cause permanent changes.5https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058254#:~:text=Drinking%20too%20much%20alcohol%20can,term%20increases%20in%20blood%20pressure Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to obesity, another risk factor for heart disease.6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4338356/ With heart disease as the leading cause of death for men in Australia, and the second behind dementia for women, it’s important that we do everything we can to support good heart health.

Other health impacts of alcohol

Heart disease is just one of several serious health impacts linked to alcohol use, including:7https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/about-alcohol-use/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • liver disease
  • compromised immunity
  • some cancers
  • digestive problems
  • mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorder.

Other problems linked to alcohol use, such as engaging in high risk behaviours, violence and injury, can lead to serious health issues and even death.8https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/about-alcohol-use/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

How to drink more healthfully

While there is no healthy or ‘safe’ amount of alcohol to drink, you can have a healthier relationship with alcohol by following recommended guidelines.

Other things you can do to reduce your alcohol intake include:

  • Volunteer to be the designated driver on nights out and stay alcohol-free
  • Substitute every other alcoholic drink with a glass of water
  • Commit to a minimum of at least two alcohol-free days every week9https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/alcohol#:~:text=Aim%20for%20two%20alcohol%20free,as%20water%20or%20soda%20water
  • Suggest catching up with friends over a walk, coffee or breakfast to make social gatherings less alcohol focused.

If you need help

If you’re concerned about your relationship with alcohol and would like help stopping drinking or reducing the amount you drink, you don’t have to do it alone. Speak to your GP about local resources they can recommend. Call the National Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) who will direct you to the service in your state or territory. 1800 250 015

Call the Family Drug Support hotline or visit their online resource at https://fdsonline.org.au/

Do an online assessment which has been shown to motivate change in people wanting to stop drinking at Alcohol Think Again.

Visit the following websites for more information: 

Alcohol and Drug Foundation 

Australian Drug Information Network 

Australian Government Alcohol Information 

Support and information groups include: 

Alcoholics Anonymous 

Al-Anon and Alateen 

SMART Recovery Australia  

Learn more about the lifestyle factors that can impact our heart health

Useful links

Learn More: The different types of heart diseases
Related Article: The importance of early investigation into your heart health 

This information is of a general nature. If you are concerned about your heart health, discuss this with your local doctor.

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