For some people, drinking even the smallest amount of alcohol carries major risks. For others, research shows moderate consumption may actually offer a degree of protection against heart disease. Researchers continuously are studying the relationship between alcohol consumption and the heart. And, some more recent findings suggest moderate alcohol consumption can offer some protection against heart disease for some people. But determining exactly who might benefit and who might actually be at risk is difficult.
Some of the possible heart-related benefits of moderate alcohol consumption include:
- Raising the "good" HDL cholesterol level
- Lowering blood pressure
- Inhibiting the formation of blood clots, which can be good because it may prevent a heart attack; but, it also could increase the risk of bleeding.
- Helping prevent artery damage caused by the "bad" LDL cholesterol
According to the American Heart Association, moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is qualified as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
No. Even moderate alcohol consumption is not right for all people. In fact, alcohol consumption can be quite harmful to some. Anyone who has had heart failure, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, diabetes, arrhythmia, a family history of cardiac death or stroke, obesity, high triglycerides, or are taking medications should speak to their doctor before consuming alcohol. Also, if you are pregnant or have a history of alcoholism, you should not drink alcohol. Given the potential risks created by drinking alcohol, the American Heart Association cautions people not to start drinking if they do not already drink alcohol.
How alcohol affects cardiovascular risk merits further research. Drinking alcohol in hopes of gaining potential health benefits is not recommended. Instead, talk to your doctor about lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling weight, getting enough exercise and following a healthy diet. There is no scientific proof that drinking an alcoholic beverage can replace these conventional measures.
A heart condition that affects an estimated 2 million Americans, atrial fibrillation (AF) is rapid, irregular electrical activity in the heart's upper chambers.
Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat controlled by electric signals that are produced by cells within the heart. In atrial fibrillation, part of the heart beats irregularly and too fast, causing your body to not receive the proper amount of oxygen.
AF can occur in otherwise healthy people with no known heart disease, and is most often detected during stress or exercise. AF also shows up in people who've had coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, heart valve disease, an inflamed heart muscle or lining, or who recently have had heart surgery. People with atherosclerosis (arteries lined with fatty deposits) and angina (chest pain) sometimes have it, and it also has been linked to congenital heart defects.
AF sometimes appears in people with chronic lung disease, pulmonary blood clots, emphysema and asthma. Other factors that affect risk for AF are thyroid disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking-some of which are modifiable.
AF can lead to other heart rhythm problems, chronic fatigue, heart failure and stroke. If AF is left untreated, the overactive heart muscle can weaken and stretch, making it harder for the heart's upper chambers to contract properly. Not only does this increase your risk of stroke, it also can lead to congestive heart failure.
See list below:
- Irregular heart beat,
- Heart palpitation or rapid thumping inside the chest,
- Dizziness, sweating and chest pain or pressure,
- Shortness of breath, and
- Tiring more easily when exercising.
AF most commonly is diagnosed with the help of an electrocardiogram, which allows the physician to see if your heart's electric signals are normal.
Once diagnosed, AF traditionally is treated by medication to prevent blood clots. In some cases, surgery may be required or electric shock is used to change the beat of your heart. There is no known cure for AF, therefore the goals of treatment are to prevent blood clots from forming, control your heart rate within a relatively normal range, and restore a normal heart rhythm, if possible.
Coronary artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of a hard, waxy substance called plaque inside your arteries. Over time, this buildup can cause narrowing inside your arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. In some cases, pieces of plaque may break off and completely block an artery or cause an artery to clot off.
Bypass surgery creates a detour around the blocked artery and forms an alternate route for blood to flow to the heart.
A piece of blood vessel is taken from somewhere else in the body and then reattached below the narrowed or blocked section of the diseased coronary artery. The earliest techniques used the saphenous veins found along the inside of the legs. Then, surgeons began using the internal mammary artery behind the left ribcage. The left internal mammary still is used more than 95 percent of the time because the mammary artery already is attached to a large artery on one end, leaving only one end of the artery to be detached and then grafted to a coronary artery.
Over the past five to six years, cardiovascular surgeons also have been using the radial artery found in the forearm. They often start with the radial artery in the patient's nondominant arm and should another artery be needed, they then may use the right internal mammary artery in addition to the left internal mammary artery. This combination has proven to help people live longer.
Simply put, when bypass surgery is performed:
- The patient is put to sleep with general anesthesia.
- The surgeon exposes the heart surgically.
- The surgeon harvests a piece of healthy blood vessel from the chest, arm or leg.
- Connection to a heart-lung bypass machine allows the surgeon to stop the heartbeat while he or she works on the arteries. Or, the surgeon may use newer stabilizing devices to do the bypass on the beating heart.
- The surgeon uses the harvested blood vessel to create bypass grafts around the narrowed or blocked parts of the arteries.
- The surgeon then allows flow through the bypasses and closes the incisions.
- The patient wakes up once the anesthesia wears off.
Bypass surgery is a detailed procedure that varies in length depending on the complexity of each patient's problem. Recovery involves four to seven days in the hospital, and then anywhere from three to 12 weeks of rehabilitation as the patient returns to his or her prior activities. There are no long-term restrictions and exercise, especially in the form of cardiac rehabilitation, is encouraged.
According to the American Heart Association, increased physical activity has been associated with increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Children who exercise regularly improve their cardiovascular health, strengthen their heart muscles and maintain better endurance in sports. How often should children exercise?
To reap benefits, children ages 2 and older should participate in at least 30 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity activities every day. They also should perform at least 30 minutes of vigorous physical activities -such as horseplay, dancing, biking and swimming-a minimum of three to four days a week. This large-muscle movement at a rapid rate helps achieve and maintain a good level of heart and lung fitness.
Children who exercise may experience:
- Lungs that stay healthier longer;
- Less depression and stress;
- Reduced blood pressure;
- Raised HDL ("good") cholesterol;
- An increase in the burning of calories;
- A decreased risk of type I and type II diabetes; and
- More self- confidence and self-esteem.