Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: How Chronic Drinking Affects Your Heart

Woman with a chronic drinking issue and cardiomyopathy staring at glass of liquor

Alcohol might not cause you serious health issues in some cases. In fact, some studies have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol can actually lower your risk for heart disease. However, chronic or heavy alcohol use is another story. People who drink more may develop a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. The good news is that if you stop drinking, you might have a full recovery.

Is alcoholic cardiomyopathy in your future? Reach out to us at The Woods at Parkside for help preventing it.

What Is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Woman with a chronic drinking issue and cardiomyopathy staring at glass of liquor

The Essential Facts You Need to Know About Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Infographic

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a condition in which heavy alcohol use changes the shape of your heart. As your heart gets larger and more stretched out, your heart muscle weakens. Eventually, your heart is damaged to the point that it can no longer pump well enough to supply your body with adequate oxygen.


The main cause of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is heavy and chronic alcohol use. Have you ever asked yourself, am I an alcoholic? Whether you have or not, it pays to get the answer from a professional. Experts define heavy drinking as about five drinks or more per day for five or more years.

Binge drinking can also cause this condition. Bingeing can be defined as drinking heavily within a short span of time. For example, bingeing can be defined as when a woman drinks four drinks, or a man drinks five drinks in a short time, such as at a party.

Finally, some people have a specific genetic mutation that can contribute to developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This mutation causes their heart to process alcohol very slowly. If you have this risk factor, it takes fewer drinks to give you the damaging effects of heavy alcohol use.


In alcoholic cardiomyopathy, your heart works differently, causing symptoms in your heart and the rest of your body as well. Here are some of the symptoms you might experience.

  • Chest pain when you are active
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Bulging or pressure in the veins of your neck
  • Swelling in your lower extremities
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Hardening or swelling in your liver

It’s important to seek help if you have these symptoms, especially chest pain, palpitations, or fainting. A cardiologist can examine you, order tests, and have a conversation with you about the extent of your alcohol use. If the doctor confirms that you have alcoholic cardiomyopathy, they can begin treatment. However, the best thing you can do to manage or reverse the condition is to cut down or stop drinking alcohol.


What happens next depends on what you do to overcome the condition. Stopping alcohol use gives you the best chance to reverse the condition. You may start feeling better within a few months. However, if you don’t do anything to curb your alcohol use, you could be at risk for life-threatening consequences, such as heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Those who don’t stop their heavy drinking have a high probability of dying within ten years of getting the diagnosis.

Medical Treatment for Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

There are several things a doctor can do to treat alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Certain medications can reduce your symptoms. Sometimes, surgery can help. The thing to remember is that if you keep on drinking heavily, your doctor’s treatment probably won’t help you much.

Is There a Cure?

The only likely cure for alcoholic cardiomyopathy is to stop drinking altogether. Even then, some people will not completely recover. It sounds simple, but if you have an alcohol use disorder, it could feel nearly impossible. Fortunately, alcohol use disorder can be treated.

The only other hope for a cure is a heart transplant. Yet, there are two problems with that. First, there are very few hearts available from organ donors, so the wait list is extremely long. Second, the requirements to be considered for a heart transplant are strict. In order to qualify, you would have to quit drinking for a substantial amount of time. So, you’re back to the first question – how can you quit alcohol for good?

How to Quit Alcohol Safely

Getting off alcohol abruptly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that affect your heart, your brain, and your entire body. That is true for any heavy drinker. However, if you have alcoholic cardiomyopathy, the dangers are even greater. That’s why it’s best to seek help from detox and rehab specialists like those at The Woods at Parkside.


Detox programs get you through the worst of your withdrawal symptoms. Our medical staff monitors your condition closely to assess your condition and needs. When your symptoms flare, you may receive medications to relieve or reduce them. In addition, you may have certain helpful medications that you take on a regular basis. Meanwhile, our team is there to support you 24/7.

However, detox is somewhat different for someone with alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Besides the symptoms of withdrawal, you might also have symptoms related to your heart condition. At this time, you need experienced medical staff to monitor you even more closely. As experts in detox and rehab treatment, we know how to manage both types of symptoms.

Our goal with detox is to prevent medical problems and keep you safe during the three-to-ten-day process of getting the alcohol out of your system.


Once your withdrawal symptoms have abated and you are feeling better, you can benefit from an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. Rehab is where you do the work of learning about your alcohol use disorder and how to manage it.

Our residential alcohol use disorder program is based on 12-step traditions. You stay in treatment for up to 45 days. That may seem like a long time. However, remember that you need time to learn and practice healthy habits and thought patterns.

What’s more, you need time to restructure your life so that you can prepare for sobriety after you go back to your home environment. This part of your treatment requires planning and taking practical steps to set yourself up for success.

Rehab includes various types of therapy, all of which point you towards a substance-free life. You may also participate in relapse prevention activities so that you can avoid giving in to the desire to drink. Our team can meet with your loved ones for family education. This could help you receive the right kind of support from the people closest to you.

Where to Go for Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

The Woods at Parkside has a beautiful, peaceful environment that promotes calmness and healing. Even better, our team includes experts in detox and rehabilitation. In addition, our medical staff has experience with a wide variety of alcohol-related medical conditions like alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

We understand the challenges you are facing. Just as importantly, we know the right steps to take to ensure your safety and help you move toward recovery. We take care of your needs while you get your health and your life back on track.

Do you need to stop drinking because of a diagnosis of alcoholic cardiomyopathy? Call the detox and rehab experts at The Woods at Parkside.

The post Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: How Chronic Drinking Affects Your Heart appeared first on The Woods At Parkside.

Original Author: Beacon User

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