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Alcohol and Rapid Heartbeat
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Alcohol and Rapid Heartbeat


Posted by Shell on June 01, 1999 at 16:25:21
I know that an increase in heart rate during alcohol ingestion is normal, but I'm wondering how much of an increase is normal?  Whenever I go out with friends and drink more than 4 cocktails during the course of an evening, my heart rate goes from 85-90 to 150-170.  It usually remains high until up to 24 hours later.  I also feel rather short of breath sometimes (not always) the morning after.  My neck and chest turn blotchy red and remain so for a good hour after the first drink.  Could this be a sign of an allergic reaction to alcohol?

Posted by CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on June 01, 1999 at 17:04:30
Dear Shell,
Maybe your body is trying to tell you something....   You could have alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency which means your body dosen't break down alcohol properly.  Are you of asian ancestry?
I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies.  Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.  The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.
Posted by Kristine on June 03, 1999 at 09:03:59
I just read Shells comments about her rapid heartbeat after drinking alcohol....is this normal, because I have noticed it in myself when I drink.  I don't get the rash but I do notice that I have a rapid heartbeat and actually sometimes feel kinda anxious after drinking.  I once checked on this and was told it was because alcohol is a stimulent THEN a depressant, that is the reason I would feel a bit jumpy when first drinking.  I don't believe that my pusle rate ever got up to 150-170 before, but it was probably  around 100.  Is this normal?  By the way, I am NOT an asian (just in case you needed to know :)  Thanks for your help.  Kris

Posted by CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on June 04, 1999 at 09:32:06
The reason I asked about Asian ancestry is that these individuals are more likely to have alcohol dehydrogenase defeciency and have a "alergic (allergic)" reaction to alcohol.  I think the reason that alcohol increases the heart rate is because it is a vasodilator and causes the blood vessels to enlarge thus requiring the heart to pump faster.  This is the reason that drinking in a hot tub is not recommended - the hot tub already vasodilates the blood vessels and adding alcohol on top of that can put a strain on the heart.
Information provided here is for general educational purposes only. Only your doctor can provide specific diagnoses and treatments. If you would like to be seen at the Cleveland Clinic, please Call 1 - 800 - CCF - CARE for an appointment at Desk F15 with a cardiologist

Posted by JP on June 09, 1999 at 11:19:50
I'm a 41 year old caucasian male who over the past 15 years has had 3 episodes of rapid heartbeat followed by atrial fibrillation in which moderate alcohol consuption has been associated.  The AF has lasted several hours in the worst case.  How can I be tested for alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency?  
Posted by Lori on June 26, 1999 at 02:22:33
It is so nice to hear that I am not alone.  About 10 years ago I started noticing that eveytime I drank I would spend the entire night tossing and turning in bed with a heart rate usually around 110-120.  Sometimes I would have what I thought was Paroxsimal Atrial Tachcardia that would jump up from the 110 or 120 to 170 or 180.  I tried eveything different kinds of drinks all the way to less drinks.  I finally became so intolorant that even one drink would make me miserable so......I quit.  Have been alcohol free for the last six years.  It would be nice to have a drink now and then but the quality of my life is more important.  It would truly be nice to understand what causes this.  I am not asian and I used to drink without any problems for years, then all of the sudden things changed. Any ideas?????  

Posted by CCF CARDIO MD - CRC on July 08, 1999 at 10:17:03
I think there is a lab test for alcohol dehydrogenase but it is not standard.  Alcohol is a well know precipitator of afib.  My best advise is if you have this type of reaction to alcohol to avoid drinking.  The majority of people are non-drinkers and no one will fault you for ordering a Coke when others are drinking.  In fact you will probably have more friends asking you out to be the "designated driver".  Good luck.
I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies.  Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.  The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.


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