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Alcohol and the heart.

ALCOHOLISM IN GENERAL: Alcoholism is one of the major health problems in the world. Alcohol consumption has an impact on different body systems like the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, the hematopoetic organs, and the cardiovascular system. Alcohol interferes with other medications, and drinking can exacerbate a variety of medical illnesses. IMPACT ON THE HEART: In the heart, alcohol and its metabolite acetaldehyde confer a toxic effect on mitochondria as well as on the sarcoplasmatic reticulum, which is dependent on both the mean daily consumption and the duration of alcohol intake. A wide range of toxic effects of alcohol in distinct individuals can be observed and modest doses of alcohol can exert beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system probably by an increase in high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) or changes in blood clotting mechanisms. Detrimental effects of alcohol on the heart comprise a decrease in myocardial contractility, hypertension, atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, and secondary non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy. After consuming large quantities of alcohol over years, alcoholic cardiomyopathy may develop, which presents with dilation and impaired contractility of the left or both ventricles. Endomyocardial biopsies of patients with alcoholic cardiomyopathy reveal in up to 30% of all cases myocarditis with lymphocytic infiltrates. TREATMENT: Abstinence after development of milder heart failure can stop progression or even reverse symptoms in some cases, otherwise severe heart failure ensues leading to a poor prognosis. Except abstinence, treatment of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is based on the regimen of therapy for heart failure to reduce the size of the dilated heart and to mitigate the symptoms of heart failure.[1]

References

  1. Alcohol and the heart. Schoppet, M., Maisch, B. Herz. (2001) [Pubmed]
 
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