Coronary Heart Disease And Alcohol

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is caused by an insufficient flow of blood and oxygen to the myocardium. This causes the coronary arteries to become blocked, which causes an imbalance in the amount of oxygen available. There is usually a build-up of plaques in the lumen of the coronary arteries that block blood flow.1 

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of mortality and disability in developed countries. Even though the death rate for this condition has slowly gone down in western countries over the last few decades, it still causes about one-third of all deaths in people older than 35.2

Alcohol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease

Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as coronary heart disease. Excessive alcohol use, which is characterized as more than 60g a day for men and more than 40g a day for women, is known to contribute to mortality and the burden of cardiovascular diseases.3

There is a clear link between high blood pressure and drinking too much alcohol regularly. High blood pressure puts a strain on the heart muscle and eventually leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), which in turn increases your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. People who drink alcohol frequently and consume more than the lower risk levels are recommended to cut back on their consumption or stop drinking entirely.4

What does excessive alcohol do to the heart?

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a type of dilated cardiomyopathy that is caused by drinking too much alcohol and raises the risk of heart disease. Heart problems occur when the heart and blood vessels can't make enough water to meet the body's daily needs. People with heart disease frequently experience breathing problems, especially during and after hard exercise, even if it is minor. Other symptoms of heart disease include exhaustion and swollen legs. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a common disease that is becoming a problem all over the world.5

Chronically increased heart rate

Drinking alcohol can create irregularities in the way the heart beats and the amount of time that passes between heartbeats. According to a number of studies, excessive drinking on a daily basis might bring on episodes of tachycardia which is the increase in heart rate due to problems in the electrical signals that produce a heartbeat. The complications that might arise as a result of regular episodes of tachycardia can vary based on their frequency, severity and length, but it can cause blood clots, which can result in a stroke or a heart attack.6

Chronically high blood pressure

Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can lead to dangerously elevated blood pressure. Your blood pressure will momentarily increase if you consume more than three drinks in one sitting. However, binge drinking more than once might lead to permanent increases in blood pressure.7

Alcohol in moderation is not a threat to heart health

A moderate amount of drinking is about one drink a day on average for women and one or two drinks a day on average for men.8 It has been suggested that consuming alcohol in moderation may reduce the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease.8

If you’re concerned about your alcohol intake

If you're concerned about your own or someone else's drinking, seeing a doctor is a good place to start. They will be able to talk about the treatments and services that are available.9

When to contact a doctor

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you get medical attention as soon as possible.10

  • Sudden, persistent chest pain or discomfort 
  • Pain that moves to your right or left arm, neck, jaw, back, or stomach 
  • Feeling dizzy, sweaty, or sick all of a sudden 
  • Swelling in the lower legs, ankles, or foot 
  • Suddenly gaining a lot of weight 
  • Breathing difficulty 
  • If you've already been told you have heart failure, 
  • Facial weakness 
  • Issues with speech 
  • Stroke symptoms 
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, dizziness, or a sudden fall  
  • Painful headache 
  • Issues with sight
  • One side of the body feels weak or numb 
  • One side of the body feels weak or numb  
  • Palpitations in the heart


If you want to consume alcohol, do so in moderation. However, if you do not already drink alcohol, you shouldn't start doing so in an effort to reduce your chance of developing coronary heart disease. You should talk to your doctor about your heart and discuss the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol.


  1. b Shahjehan RD, Bhutta BS. Coronary Artery Disease [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  2. Sanchis-Gomar F, Perez-Quilis C, Leischik R, Lucia A. Epidemiology of coronary heart disease and acute coronary syndrome. Annals of Translational Medicine [Internet]. 2022 Sep 15;4(13):256–6. Available from:
  3. Hoek AG, van Oort S, Mukamal KJ, Beulens JWJ. Alcohol Consumption and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Placing New Data in Context. Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2022 Sep 15;24(1):51–9.
  4. British Heart Foundation. Effects of alcohol on your heart [Internet]. British Heart Foundation; 2018 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  5. Lesser B. Dilated Cardiomyopathy | Dual Diagnosis [Internet]. Dual Diagnosis. 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  6. alcoholthinkagain. Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  7. drink aware. Alcohol and blood pressure | Drinkaware [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  8. John Hopkins Medicine. Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  9. NHS. Overview - Alcohol misuse [Internet]. NHS. 2018 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:
  10. British Heart Foundation. When do you still need to get medical help [Internet]. British Heart Foundation; 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 15]. Available from:

Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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