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What is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

What is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a cardiovascular disease indicated by weakened heart muscles, which disrupt blood pumping and blood circulation. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a type of heart problem caused by long-term heavy drinking. It is a dilated type of cardiomyopathy that can lead to heart failure. Recovery from alcoholic cardiomyopathy is possible if you abstain from alcohol. There are also medications recommended by doctors and ultimately surgery in very rare cases.

Explanation of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is heart damage resulting from long-term alcohol abuse or frequent binge drinking over a long period. When a person consumes too much alcohol above the body’s tolerance level, the excess in the body affects the heart. As a result, the heart becomes dilated and enlarged, causing a change in the shape and structure of your heart.

The change in your heart’s shape weakens the blood vessels and muscles and alters the natural pumping function of the heart. The disruption in the blood pumping function of the heart affects your body because of the shortage of oxygen.

People with alcoholic cardiomyopathy usually experience breathing difficulty, especially during active exercise or strenuous activities. Also, they experience swollen legs and general body weakness. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is common among people with alcohol use disorders who have excessive alcohol in their body system. It is prevalent among middle-aged people, and the severity of the disease varies.

What is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Types of Cardiomyopathy

The different types of cardiomyopathy existing include:

  • Dilated CardiomyopathyAlcoholic cardiomyopathy is a variant of dilated cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the heart becomes stretched and enlarged. Enlargement of the heart affects blood pumping and general circulation of blood to your body. The left ventricle is mostly affected in this case. Dilated cardiomyopathy affects middle-aged people. It is often caused by a heart attack, coronary artery disease, genetic mutation, and alcohol abuse.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathyThis type of cardiovascular disease occurs when the muscle of your heart is abnormally thick, making it very difficult for the heart to function. It affects the left ventricle pumping blood to the body. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can affect anyone. It is more severe in children than adults. The cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is largely genetic mutations and linked to family history.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathyFor this condition, the muscle is stiff and inflexible. The heart cannot expand to accommodate blood pumped during heartbeat. It affects older people more but can happen to people of different ages. It is idiopathic; it has no specific cause but can sometimes be caused by amyloidosis or any other disease in the body.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasiaThis cardiovascular disease is rare because, in this condition, scar tissue replaces the muscle attached to your right ventricle. Genetic defects usually cause this condition. It affects the heart rhythm majorly.
  • Unclassified cardiomyopathyOther types of cardiomyopathy are not in the above categories. These are unclassified and can occur mostly as a result of genetic mutations.

Risk factors of Cardiomyopathy

Risk factors for cardiomyopathy include:

  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • History of survived heart attack, heart infection, or coronary artery disease
  • Obstructive obesity blocking blood vessels
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse

Some diseases that can lead to cardiomyopathy include diabetes, hemochromatosis, amyloidosis, thyroid diseases, connective tissue disorder, and sarcoidosis.

Who is at Risk of Developing Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Anyone taking alcohol in large quantities is at risk of having alcoholic cardiomyopathy. According to experts, taking more than 80 ml of alcohol per day for 10 years and more is at high risk of having Alcoholic cardiomyopathy. However, the high-risk population is people with alcohol use disorders or people with a low tolerance for alcohol due to their genetic mutation. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is common mostly in middle-aged adults drinking heavily and having abused alcohol for years in their early life.

What is clear from research is that alcoholics develop high tolerance over time, becoming addicted to taking alcohol. The addiction propels people to drink more, resulting in heavy drinking and finally alcoholic cardiomyopathy years down the line.

Heavy drinking for men takes about 15 alcoholic drinks per week, while women take about 8 alcoholic drinks per week. According to experts, the number of years alcoholic cardiomyopathy takes to develop in people varies. The risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy or heart failure from heavy drinking depends on the person’s medical conditions, age, and body size.

How Prevalent is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

You are at high risk of having alcoholic cardiomyopathy if you consume more than the recommended amounts of alcohol. From research, about 1 – 3% of people with alcohol use disorder are at the risk of having Alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

How Does Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Affect Your Body?

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes dilation of the heart, making the structure of the heart change. In changing the heart structure, the muscle and blood vessels are stretched to take another shape. This weakens the heart and affects the blood-pumping function of the heart.

The lower chamber ventricles of the heart are stretched beyond normal. The right ventricle is responsible for blood circulation between the lung and the heart, while the left ventricle carries blood from the heart to the body. This function is disrupted by the change in the shape of the heart. If the blood pumping function is affected, the effects on the entire body are negative.

Asides from this, the change in the shape of the heart also affects your breathing pulse, causing shortness of breath. The heartbeat system is affected, and any delay in the sequence of your heartbeat is very dangerous for your health. Additionally, the toxic release from the alcohol affects the heart rhythm. The toxicity from the alcohol causes scar tissue in the heart, which is a life-threatening condition.

Is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy a Manageable Long-term Problem or a Short-term Problem?

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a chronic disease that has a long-term effect. However, there are short-term effects too. An example of the short-term effect is holiday heart syndrome.

Asides the long-term damage that alcohol does to your body, taking alcohol excessively short-term is also dangerous. The alteration the alcohol does to your heart is called “fibrillation.” Fibrillation is the disruption of the heart rhythm. This disruption affects the pumping of blood. The fibrillation can either be atrial fibrillation or ventricular fibrillation.

  • Ventricular fibrillationOnce there is a disruption in the heart’s lower chamber, the heart finds it difficult to pump blood. If the blood isn’t pumping effectively, it can lead to fainting or outright stoppage of the heartbeat, which leads to sudden death. For alcoholic cardiomyopathy, ventricular fibrillation is not so common.
  • Atrial fibrillationAt the upper chamber of the heart are the left and right atrium. If the disruption to the heart rhythm occurs in this chamber, the blood flow to the lower chamber is affected. While some get pumped to the other chamber of your heart, others form a pool and clot. The blood clots can leave the heart and block blood vessels carrying blood to some organs. In addition, the clot can travel to the brain. Blood clot in the brain leads to stroke.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Symptoms are signs showing the presence of a particular condition in a person. These symptoms become evident because of a change in the shape of your heart caused by this disease. Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • shortness of breath when you are active
  • Edema – swelling of the legs, feet, and ankles
  • General body weakness or fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of concentration
  • Coughing with pink mucus
  • dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling or hardening of the liver
  • trouble concentrating
  • Irregular heartbeat (heart palpitations)
  • a change in urine output
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Bulging of veins in your neck
  • Loss of muscle mass

Note that you may not notice some of these symptoms until advanced stages of alcoholic cardiomyopathy. The prominent trigger for symptoms is usually heart failure. Even though there is a test available to monitor heart conditions, most people with alcohol use disorder don’t check until symptoms become evident and severe.

What Causes Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is largely caused by alcohol abuse resulting from uncontrolled chronic alcohol use. Heavy drinking has great effects on the body, especially the heart.

Alcohol usually releases toxins in the body. Your body is structured to break the toxins into non-toxic forms. This implies that consuming alcohol at a regular rate doesn’t cause damage. However, if the consumption of alcohol becomes heavy over time, your body can no longer bear the load of alcohol in the system. The liver responsible for breaking down the toxins becomes less effective. The presence of this toxin in your system affects the heart and leads to alcoholic cardiomyopathy. The heart muscles are damaged, and it becomes challenging for the heart to pump blood. The blood vessels are also thinned out, leading to an enlarged heart and ultimately heart failure. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy affects ventricles, arteries, the heart’s lower and upper chambers.

The other lifestyle pattern that can increase the risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is drug abuse, frequent binge drinking, and heavy drinking. Recreational drugs like cocaine and tobacco also affect your lungs and heart.

  • What is heavy drinking?What amounts to heavy drinking varies per gender and individual. However, if you drink 80g of alcohol per day in the next five years, you are at high risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
  • What is binge drinking?Unlike everyday heavy drinking, binge drinking is drinking a lot of alcohol on a single occasion. Binge drinking repeatedly can increase your risk of having alcoholic cardiomyopathy. For men, you shouldn’t take more than 2-3 drinks per occasion, while for men, the limit is between 2-4 drinks. Drink moderately, or abstain from drinking completely.
  • Genetic Mutations and cardiomyopathyGenetic defects can cause cardiomyopathy. Some people have a low tolerance for alcohol. The result is that the body processes it slower than normal. For people with genetic mutations, you only need to take a few drinks before getting intoxicated. Due to low tolerance for alcohol, taking too much alcohol over time can cause alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

How is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose alcoholic cardiomyopathy with different diagnostic tests like physical examination and ask questions about patients’ medical history. Generally, doctors ask questions to know patients’ medical history to know more about their situation and past lifestyle choices.

Diagnostic questions and the test will help cardiologists spot changes in heart shape and structures. These questions will also help doctors identify root causes like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, genetic mutations, and disorders. You may also need to run x-rays or laboratory tests to diagnose alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Test

Typically, doctors will carry out a physical examination and ask you to do some x-rays, imaging tests, and laboratory tests.

  • Physical ExaminationDoctors at this point examine your body physically. First, they check if there is any leg swelling and other visible symptoms. Your doctor will also examine your blood pressure and pulse. Then, with the stethoscope, your doctor will listen to the sound of your heart and lungs. Again, physical examinations will help your doctor discover any crackling sound or murmuring in the lungs and heart, indicating abnormalities.Your doctor can discover enlarged heart, heart valve damage, heart and lungs congestion, and swellings through physical examination. Your doctor will also ask you questions to understand your medical history. Always tell your doctors the truth to help them identify the ideal treatment in time.
  • Imaging testsThe heart is an internal organ that the doctor cannot see with eyes. Therefore, physical examination is limited to what doctors can see and hear. To investigate further the internal occurrences and processes in your heart, doctors can call for any or a combination of diagnostic imaging tests like x-ray, echocardiography, MRI, and electrocardiography.
  • Chest x-ray and CT scanYour doctor will ask you to carry out a chest x-ray test and Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan to show the present shape of your heart. These tests will also reveal any congestion in your lungs. The chest x-ray will show any enlargement, and the CT scan will show 3-D images of your heart condition.
  • EchocardiographyYou may carry out echocardiography to reveal the picture of the heart through sound waves. Echocardiogram will help your doctors identify dilated heart, high blood pressure, damaged heart valve, and blood clots in the heart.
  • Electrocardiography (EKG)Your doctor may also call for electrocardiography (EKG) to examine the electrical signals controlling your heartbeat. One of the symptoms of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is irregular heart rhythm. The EKG will record your heart rhythm if the heartbeat is normal, too fast, or too slow.
  • Heart magnetic resonance imaging testThrough the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test, the doctor can see more detailed images of your heart. MRI uses a strong magnet to generate clear images.
  • Laboratory tests

Laboratory tests cannot directly help the doctors diagnose alcoholic cardiomyopathy. However, the tests can reveal organ damage and heart dysfunction.

Laboratory tests usually required by doctors are a blood chemistry panel to measure the level of alcohol in your blood, a liver function test to examine liver damage, and a cholesterol test to examine the level of cholesterol in your blood.

What is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

How is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Treated?

Your first approach to getting treatment for alcoholic Cardiomyopathy is to stop drinking outrightly. However, if you cannot stop at once because of the withdrawal effects, you can start by reducing your alcohol intake.

The doctors can help you with the withdrawal symptoms. However, if you cannot stop drinking alcohol because of its addictive nature, you can reach out to experts to help you stop the intake. If you reduce alcohol intake, you will notice an improvement in your health.

The best approach to treatment is to stop alcohol consumption completely. There is no timeline for the medication; you will continue the medication until you are completely healed. You may need surgery to correct the displaced valve and repair damaged blood vessels in very severe cases.

Is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Curable?

Perhaps, the only cure for this condition is a heart transplant. Unfortunately, this is not an easy route to play because it is rare to get a heart donor. Your heart is one of the body’s essential organs that one cannot do without; getting a donor is almost impossible. There is a long list of requirements the donor must meet if you are lucky to find one. The donor must strictly abstain from alcohol.

Diet for Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Alongside medications given by doctors, you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle. You will start with diet modification. You need to eat food that will help your heart. Doctors will recommend that you reduce your cholesterol and salt intake. This may result in taking low-salt diets. You need balanced diets rich in vitamins and minerals to help repair your health naturally.

Furthermore, doctors may recommend diuretics to remove excess sodium and water in the dilated areas of your body. You will also reduce your fluid intake to limit further dilation resulting from excess fluid in the body. Excess fluid will put too much pressure on your heart. Doctors can also recommend beta-blockers to reduce blood pressure and implantable pacemakers in severe cases of irregular heartbeat.

What Medications Are Used To Treat Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Medications used for treating Alcoholic cardiomyopathy vary because of the particular health condition of individuals. Nevertheless, medications are majorly used for treating symptoms of alcoholic Cardiomyopathy. Notwithstanding the peculiarities, major medications used in treating Alcoholic cardiomyopathy are diuretics and pacemaker/beta-blockers.

Diuretics help reduce the excess fluid in the heart and get rid of dilation. Pacemakers or beta-blockers help to regulate blood pressure and heart pulse.

Complications of the Treatments

Doctors can better explain the complications that may result from your peculiar case. In severe cases, complications like heart failure get worse. Other related conditions may also get worse in some cases. Therefore, doctors are best positioned to explain the risk and complications to you and the suitable treatments for such complications.

Complications that may arise from alcoholic cardiomyopathy condition include:

  1. Heart failureThis is when blood pumped by the heart is not enough to supply the body. The heart isn’t working well to pump the blood demanded by the body. This can lead to death if not treated.
  2. Blood clotsCardiomyopathy can make the little blood pumping from the heart clot. Blood clots can block the bloodstream and affect the supply of blood to other body organs. This can lead to systemic failure if not treated.
  3. Increase in blood PressureComplications can also arise through elevated blood pressure. Alcohol consumption in excessive quantities can cause hypertension. Hypertension over a long time can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  4. Increased heart rateAnother name for increased heart rate is tachycardia. A recurrent increase in the heart rate can cause heart attack or stroke.
  5. StrokeThe person with alcoholic cardiomyopathy is at risk of having ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. When there is a blockage in the blood flow to the brain, the person is at risk of having ischemic stroke. On the other hand, hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is leakage through the artery that carries blood to the brain. Anyone with alcohol use disorder is at risk of stroke.
  6. Cardiac arrest and sudden deathThe indication of cardiomyopathy is irregular heart rhythm. Such an abnormal heart rhythm can make you pass out and lead to sudden death.
  7. Backward flow of bloodIn dilated cardiomyopathy, when the heart is stretched too much, it affects the closure of the valve. An unclosed valve may lead to a backward flow of blood, which negatively affects the heart.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Recovery Outlook

Recovery outlook from alcoholic cardiomyopathy depends on the stage of the disease, your blood group, how long you have been abusing alcohol, and your age. If alcoholic cardiomyopathy was discovered at the last stage, your chance of recovery is slim. Contrarily, discovering alcoholic cardiomyopathy early may guarantee recovery if you stop taking alcohol and you start taking your medications. Medications help to restore damaged tissue and weakened muscle. Restoration means that blood pumping and flow will become regular.

If you stop drinking alcohol, the recovery timeline is about 3-6 months. The exact time depends on the severity of the condition and your past health history. Recovery usually takes longer in severe cases requiring surgery as a last resort. You may start noticing improvement in some of the symptoms, but only doctors can observe and estimate recovery time.

How Can I Prevent Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

The only way to prevent Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is to abstain from taking alcohol or reduce the consumption of alcohol. Heavy drinkers having about nine drinks per week are at high risk. More so, you need a good diet to maintain a healthy heart. If you stop taking alcohol, the chances of reversing the symptoms of alcoholic Cardiomyopathy are very high. Because of other complications that come with alcoholic cardiomyopathy, you might need to make some lifestyle changes like the following:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Sleep well
  • Find ways to reduce and manage stress
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Eat healthily
  • Control diabetes and high cholesterol

What Can I Expect if I Have Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

You cannot ascertain your outlook or what to expect if you have alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Your experience depends on several factors. Your medical history and past lifestyle choices will determine what you can expect. If you’ve always been a heavy drinker, the condition gets worse. Also, if you have an underlining health condition, especially health conditions associated with alcohol use, the condition can worsen.

However, if you stop drinking alcohol completely, you can expect to get better. In fact, if you reduce your alcohol intake, the condition will improve. Lastly, what to expect depends on treatments and medications received from doctors. In the case of successful surgery, you can expect the best outlook, but this is rare because of the difficulties attached to getting heat donors.

How Long Does This Condition Last?

The exact time of cure of alcoholic cardiomyopathy is not known. Again, it depends on the severity of each case. If you experience less severe alcoholic cardiomyopathy, you can recover fully, especially when you stop drinking alcohol. For some people, the effects of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy may be life-long. Even when you undergo heart transplantation, if you have had medical history related to alcohol, chances for full recovery are low, and you are susceptible to other heart problems.

How Dangerous Is Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy?

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a life-threatening disease. It is severe because the heart is dilated and cannot perform efficiently. It may lead to heart attack, stroke, or total heart failure in extreme cases. Anyone with alcoholic cardiomyopathy disease can also experience heart valve problems, irregular heartbeats, heart tissue scar, liver failure, blood clots in the heart, and eventually death, especially when there is no professional treatment. Most people diagnosed but continued heavy drinking will barely survive 10 years after the discovery.

Managing The Symptoms in the Long-term

If you are diagnosed with alcoholic cardiomyopathy, the best way to manage yourself is to stop taking alcohol. If you cannot quit drinking alcohol, you need to reduce your consumption of alcohol. Ensure that your alcohol intake is moderate and not above the recommended quantity per week.

Always follow your doctor’s guidance and instructions on treatments you receive. Take all medications and stick to a healthy diet routine advised by doctors. Do not hesitate to ask questions or ask for help when necessary. Doctors and other health service providers have abundant resources to answer your questions and support you all the way.

When Should I Go To The Hospital?

Ensure that you visit the hospital on your appointment day. However, if you notice any drastic change in your symptoms, you should contact the doctors immediately. The specific time to call your doctor depends on the severity of each case. Discuss your peculiar symptoms and when you can call their office with your doctor.

When Does Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Become An Emergency?

Only doctors can certify what an emergency is in the case of alcoholic cardiomyopathy. While some symptoms won’t amount to an emergency, others need urgent medical attention. Typically, you should visit the hospital immediately if you notice sharp chest pain, heart palpitations, or a repeated passing out experience.

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy has short and long-term effects. At ecosoberhouse.com you can find the right care and support, you will fully recover from it. However, no recovery can happen to expect you to stop taking alcohol or reduce your alcohol consumption. Your doctor has the best advice and guidance based on your peculiar case. If you feel one or more of those symptoms mentioned, connect with an expert immediately to assist you.

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