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Alcohol and your heart health: The good and bad side of it

by , 25 November 2014

In terms of heart health, alcohol receives both praise and prejudice.

On one hand, there's plenty of research to show that drinking a glass a day is heart healthy. On the other, there's just as much evidence against it. In fact, the evidence suggests alcohol has a direct role in the development and progression of the heart disease epidemic.

With one in 12 people across the globe with the devastating diagnosis, the role alcohol has in harming your heart might be a lot more cause for concern.

Let's look at what research says about alcohol and its affect on your heart health. (With this information in hand, it'll be easier to decide whether drinking will be to your benefit or detriment.)

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Some benefit, others don’t when it comes to alcohol and heart health

People who benefit from drinking are the ones who do so only in moderation, say experts.
Researchers at a Danish University studied the alcohol intake of 60,000 men and women for almost six years.
When the study ended, they found that the men who drank the most alcohol every week – averaging out at one drink a day – had a significant 41% lower risk of heart disease. This compared to men with a 7% lower risk when they drank one drink a week.
The women who took part in the study showed different results. Those who drank every day had a 35% lowered heart disease risk. But when they drank only one drink a week, their risk was 36% lower.
Unfortunately, researchers said there was a limitation to their study’s conclusion. This because they took an average of drinks per participant and didn’t factor in binge drinking.
Despite this, it shows alcohol can help lower the heart disease risk – in men especially.
Now, what about the situation where alcohol hampers heart health?
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Your heart health suffers when you drink

Many studies show that severe nutrient deficiencies accompany heavy drinking and affects your heart health. But there’s something even more devastating: There’s a direct link between alcohol and heart muscle damage.
When you drink too much, especially when you binge drink, the toxins from alcohol affect your heart muscle. They damage it from the inside as it pumps blood and this leave it unable to do its work and it becomes tired faster.
This means you’re more prone to heart problems and heart disease.
Then there are the nutrient deficiencies that impact the problems.
One of the most important nutrients for your heart is B1 or thiamine. When you drink, it inhibits your gut from absorbing thiamine correctly.
This means there’s not enough thiamine absorption and the stores in your liver start getting low. Continue drinking and the stores can run out completely.
And that’s where the problem comes in.
Your liver changes the thiamine you get from food into a more helpful kind that your body uses to make energy. It’s specifically this type of thiamine that your heart muscles use to keep pumping. And when there’s not enough, the muscle becomes weak and you blood flow slows.
Researchers say there’s evidence that thiamine supplements taken by alcoholics has a great effect on lowering their heart disease risk. They notice when alcoholics take thiamine, their muscles contact harder, meaning more blood flows through the body.
That’s why, if you already suffer from any type of heart problem, including an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation, drinking alcohol for better heart health is not an option.
Now that you know when alcohol can benefit or harm your heart health, make sure you take your own health into consideration every time you raise your glass.

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