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Drinking alcohol to excess can lead to major health complications and increase the risk of alcoholism. Alcohol causes major effects to the heart and cardiovascular system, leading to health problems that can prove to be fatal.

Long-term alcohol use can drastically increase the risk for heart disease. According to Drinkaware, alcohol increases the risk of heart disease because it can: “Increase the risk of high blood pressure. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol causes raised blood pressure which is one of the most important risk factors for having a heart attack or a stroke. Increases in your blood pressure can also be caused by weight gain from excessive drinking,” and, “Heavy drinking weakens the heart muscle, which means the heart can’t pump blood as efficiently. It’s known as cardiomyopathy and can cause premature death, usually through heart failure. The heart may be enlarged.”

Alcohol increases heart rate, leading to the development of serious heart problems. According to alcoholthinkagain, “Alcohol can cause variability in the way the heart beats – the time between heart beats. Studies have found that regular heavy drinking can cause episodes of tachycardia (increased heart rate due to problems in the electrical signals that produce a heartbeat). Complications due to regular episodes of tachycardia, do vary depending on their frequency, length and severity, but it can cause blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.” Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and weakening of the heart muscles drastically increase the risk of heart attack or heart problems.

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of stroke. There are two types of stroke associated with alcohol: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. According to alcoholthinkagain, an ischemic stroke “is when an artery supplying blood to the brain tissue is blocked. This blockage can result from a clot that has formed in the artery or from a foreign body (such as a fat globule) that has broken off that becomes lodged in the artery, blocking it.” Alcohol increases the risk of ischemic stroke because it’s effects on the heart can cause clots to form and break off and lodge in the brain. The other type of stroke, hemorrhagic, results when an artery supplying the brain tears of bleeds. Alcohol can increase the risk of this type of stroke because, “it can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can create weak points on artery walls, including those in the brain, increasing the chance of them bleeding due to the force of high pressure.”

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