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Alcohol can be toxic to your heart

February 5, 2012
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

Does alcohol abuse affect the heart?

Alcohol is a drug that is abused too frequently. Alcoholism affects the individual, their family and community. And it can cause heart disease, as well as a myriad of other health problems.

Most of us have read or heard that moderate drinking of alcohol can protect the heart from disease.

It raises the level of good cholesterol, reduces plaque in the arteries, and helps prevent blood clots from forming. But

Do you know alcohol can be toxic to your heart? Over the longer term, heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure and stroke. All of these are reasons why your doctor encourages you not to drink alcohol. You can take care of your heart through good nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

"Moderate drinking" varies from one individual to another. For example, a woman's body metabolizes alcohol differently than a man's. Alcohol remains in a woman's body longer than a man's. Size of the body affects how alcohol affects the individual. As we age, the way our bodies process alcohol is less efficient.

The National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence. An alcoholic craves alcohol. (S)He has to have it. He can't stop drinking and has to drink more and more to get the high he's looking for. When an alcoholic stops drinking, he goes through withdrawal symptoms.

Alcoholism is a disease and it appears that it "does run in families."

Alcoholism is related to cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS), malnutrition, ulcers, hepatitus, among other things. FAS is the one form of mental retardation that can be preventedjust don't drink during pregnancy.

Other health issues associated with alcoholism include:

- Poorer outcomes from surgical procedures due to alcohol's effects on the person's health, malnutrition, and the depressive effects of alcohol on the body.

- Binge drinking is associated with atrial fibrillation, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart's components don't work together properly and can lead to a stroke, advises the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. You may not even feel the symptoms.

- Heavy drinking affects the body's ability to stop bleeding because the liver has difficulty producing the proteins that cause clotting.

- Alcohol doesn't mix well with other drugs.

- Alcoholism increases the risks of cancer.

- Alcoholism can result in brain damage, slower thinking, unsteadiness and slurred speech.

Is there really a good reason for placing yourself at risk for tragic effects on your health? Bad things don't happen only to other people.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, their families and communities. For more information about Alcoholics Anonymous, Ala-Teen and other education, prevention and treatment programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS.)



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