Alcohol’s Effect on the Heart

We will give you the support and guidance you need to get started on the road of long-term recovery.

Get Help with Addiction Treatment

Heavy alcohol use is known to cause numerous health issues and conditions, including those related to the heart and cardiovascular system. During a drinking episode, alcohol can cause a short-term increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, consuming alcohol above the recommended guidelines can permanently increase heart rate, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and weakened heart muscle. These issues can significantly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you have heart-related problems or other health issues caused or worsened by alcoholism, seeking professional help may reduce your risk of long-term, possibly permanent cardiovascular conditions.

At Guardian Recovery, we are dedicated to helping those who are alcohol-dependent recover from this chronic brain disease and improve their overall health and wellness. We offer integrated treatment programs and individualized plans designed to address the underlying factors contributing to addiction while simultaneously treating the symptoms of heart and cardiovascular damage.

Start Healing Today!

Choose recovery and take control of your life, it’s the path to a brighter future filled with health, happiness, and fulfillment.

Guidelines for Alcohol Use

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has established guidelines for lower-risk alcohol use, which requires “limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.” (1)

They have also established drinking patterns considered excessive or high-risk. Binge drinking is defined as “consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.” Heavy drinking is described as having more than 3 drinks in one day or 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks per day and 14 per week for men. (2)

Both heavy drinking and binge drinking can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues. Staying within the recommended limits of alcohol use or discontinuing entirely is the best way to prevent heart damage and other health conditions.

Long-Term Alcohol Misuse Can Increase the Risk of Experiencing Heart Disease

People who drink within recommended guidelines are thought to be less likely to incur heart problems than those who drink excessively. However, they still face some amount of risk.

The objective of a 2022 study was to examine the association between alcohol use and the risk of cardiovascular disease at various levels of intake. Researchers found that “alcohol consumption of all amounts was associated with increased cardiovascular risk, but “marked risk differences exist across levels of intake…” (3) Moreover, light alcohol use was linked to “minimal increases in cardiovascular risk,” and heavier intake was associated with “exponential increases in risk of…cardiovascular disease.” (4)

Short-Term Risk of Cardiovascular Events

In a 2016 meta-analysis, researchers found that moderate alcohol use was “associated with an immediately higher cardiovascular risk” up to 24 hours, in which it began to diminish. In contrast, heavy alcohol intake was associated with higher cardiovascular risk the following day and throughout the week. (5)

Further, specific events have been associated with alcohol, including atrial fibrillationheart attack and stroke, and sudden cardiac death. (6-8)

Cardiovascular Conditions Associated With Alcohol

In addition to a heightened risk for an immediate cardiovascular event, over time, chronic alcohol use can inflict heart damage. Heavy drinking has been associated with chronic high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Furthermore, alcohol misuse can weaken heart muscles (cardiomyopathy) and lead to abnormal heart rhythm.

All these factors can contribute to an increased risk of heart-related issues, including the following:

Elevated Blood Pressure

Consuming a significant amount of alcohol can cause temporarily increased blood pressure that will return to normal after a brief period. However, chronic use can lead to high blood pressure or hypertension. This condition can lead to thickened arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. (9)

Increased Heart Rate

Research has shown alcohol use can lead to increased heart rate (tachycardia). Persistent tachycardia can produce blood clots that can provoke a heart attack or stroke. (10)

Weakened Heart Muscles (Cardiomyopathy)

Long-term drinking can cause cardiopathy, a condition in which the muscles of the heart weaken, and can cause congestive heart failure. (11)

Atrial Fibrillation

Alcohol use has been associated with atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia that causes atriums (the two upper chambers of the heart) to beat abnormally. (12) When this occurs, it can lead to blood clots and pooling within atriums. If clots break off and travel into the bloodstream, they can obstruct a brain artery and cause ischemic stroke. (13)

All of these conditions can be caused or worsened by alcohol use. The longer a person uses alcohol, the more likely they will experience one or more heart problems.

Complimentary Insurance Check
Find Out Today!

"*" indicates required fields


Heart Diseases Associated With Alcohol Consumption

Experiencing any of the above-mentioned conditions can increase the risk of several heart diseases. Heart diseases that may develop as a result of alcohol use include the following:

Heart Attack

Regular alcohol use has been linked to a heightened risk of a heart attack. This is because alcohol can increase fat levels in the blood, potentially resulting in high levels of bad cholesterol. This cholesterol can clog heart arteries, eventually leading to clots that can cause a heart attack. (14)

Heart Failure

Alcohol misuse has been associated with a higher risk of heart failure. The primary reason is that heart failure often results from other heart-damaging conditions, such as heart disease, heart inflammation, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, or irregular heartbeat. (15)


Alcohol use can increase the risk of both types of strokes. (16) An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot obstructs an artery supplying blood to the brain. Conversely, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel inside the brain leaks or ruptures.

Does Alcohol Have any Heart Benefits?

There is limited evidence that mild alcohol use can protect against heart disease, but only for women over 50. However, even for these individuals, the risk of harm caused by alcohol will likely outweigh any minor benefits they receive. For example, research shows that women are more susceptible to organ damage, legal problems, relationship challenges, and trauma arising from alcohol use. (17) As reported by the NIAAA, “women are…at greater risk for alcohol-related health problems as they age.” (18)

Drinking for heart benefits, no matter how significant they may or may not be, isn’t justifiable. If alcohol has any protective effect on the heart, this has only been seen in low levels of alcohol use and doesn’t depend on the drink consumed. For instance, there is little or no evidence that red wine offers extra heart protection. (19)

Even low amounts of alcohol can increase the risks of many serious illnesses, not just cardiovascular issues. These also include several forms of cancer, brain damage, pancreatitis, alcohol-related liver disease, and eventually, alcohol misuse or dependence. Therefore, the approach to drinking most conducive to health and safety is usually to refrain from consuming alcohol most, if not all, of the time.

Our Locations 

Our Facilities & Teams Transform Lives

Changing lives by providing comprehensive support and rehabilitation, empowering individuals to overcome addiction and regain control of their health and well-being.

Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders and Alcohol-Related Health Issues

Overcoming alcohol dependence can be challenging for many individuals to do alone and often places them at risk for relapse and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, many treatment options are available for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. Guardian Recovery offers personalized recovery plans for those seeking to reclaim their lives free from drug and alcohol misuse.

To learn more about how alcohol misuse affects the heart and the health benefits of overcoming an alcohol use disorder, get in touch with us today to speak to an experienced Treatment Adviser. We’ll provide you with a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. In addition, you can learn more about individualized treatment plans, various levels of care, and evidence-based therapies and services.


Do I have an Addiction issue?

Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

















Get Local Help

Helpful, Recovery

Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

More About Author

Check Insurance Coverage

Find out today what options are available to you. Fill out the form below.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

Live a BRIGHTER Future Today!

Guardian Recovery is here to assist you in your journey of healing.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

Live a BRIGHTER Future Today!

Guardian Recovery is here to assist you in your journey of healing.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

Contact Alumni Services Today!

Guardian Recovery is here to assist you in your journey of healing after coming to one of our facilities.

Your Name

Stay in touch ALUMNI

Join our alumni newsletter to get up to date information on events, news, and more.


Personalize Your Experience

Allow us to guide you to the information your looking for.

Begin HEALING Today

Check Insurance Coverage

Find out today what options are available to you. Fill out the form below.

Do it for YOU, Do it for LOVED ones

24/7 Help: (888) 693-1872