In the central nervous system alcohol acts as a depressant. Chemically it is an alcohol, the proper name being ethanol.
The specific mechanisms involved in ethanol elimination can have deleterious consequences for someone with heart disease. Used in excess, it can also lead directly to heart disease.
Toxic byproducts, and direct effects of ethanol cause injury to cellular and subcellular systems such as the mitochondria, contractile proteins, and alterations in calcium fluxes and storage.
These changes lead to cell death, disrupt the contractile apparatus of the heart, and can cause electrolyte flux leading to arrythmias.
There are also mutiple toxic effects which work indirectly on the heart, such as abnormal automonic function, alterations in glucose homeostasis, and generation of systemic hypertension.
There is evidence that a single glass of red wine and potentially some other forms of alcohol used in moderation may prevent complications of atherosclerotic disease. For patients with known disease, I tend to recommend abstinence.
I don't have heart disease but I do have high blood pressure (controlled with meds). I occasionally have wine on the weekend but have been curious about mixed reports. I didn't understand why alcohol would lead to higher blood pressure and/or heart disease because I surmised it would actually slow the heart and reduce the pressure because of it's depressant effects. I did wonder if the secret lay with the elimination process. So I guess with the combined effect on the heart with the link to breast cancer, the rule for me will be "less is more".
I have a strong heart, no disease, however I have a bicuspid aortic valve and have suffered through PVC's most my life. I finally quit drinking because alcohol had such a bad effect on me. I would notice my heart punding, especially once I went to bed after drinking. Sometimes my heart would race. It would also increase PVC's the day after drinking. I think anyone with heart irregularities would be doing a favor to stop with the booze!
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