The Link Between Alcohol and Cardio Damage

Not for nothing is it known as the Demon Alcohol. Its effects seem so lovely at first, your wit increases ten fold, your cares melt away, you’re instantly sharper of thought, your inhibitions vanish, you become spontaneous, the life of the party. Then, within hours, the low comes. Your stomach is sick, your head is ringing, the alcoholic bile sours your mouth. The highs of alcohol can be glorious, but the after effects can be rather unpleasant, and not only in the short term. Repeated use of alcohol can have long lasting effects on several organs of the body, including the heart. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is one of the many diseases caused by alcohol abuse. Here is some information on the condition and its health implications.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a heart disease which thins and weakens the heart muscle, interfering with its ability to pump blood. This disrupts the major functions of the body, which can lead to heart failure and other health problems.

The condition is most common in men between the ages of 35 and 50. People with the disease usually have a five to 15-year history of heavy drinking, which is defined as alcohol consumption exceeding daily limits. In men, that means more than four drinks a day, or more than 14 drinks per week, while in women heavy drinking means more than three alcoholic beverages per day or more than seven drinks per week. While cardiomyopathy is not always symptomatic, when symptoms do occur, breakdown they commonly include shortness of breath, swelling of legs and feet, and shortness go breath.

Causes
The toxicity of alcohol damages the heart muscle, which makes it hard for the heart to pump blood. The heart begins to expand to hold the extra blood, in time becoming thinned and enlarged. Eventually, the strain causes the blood vessels and heart break down and cease to function properly.

Treatment
The first step to treating cardiomyopathy is to stop drinking completely. A doctor may be able to assist with withdrawal symptoms. He or she may suggest that you begin a low salt diet, take diuretics to help increase the removal of water and salt from your body, and limit for intake of fluid to ease pressure on the heart caused by fluid retention. Your doctor may prescribe ACE inhibitors or beta blockers to reduce blood pressure. If the heart is damaged severely, the doctor may suggest a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator to help it pump.

Long Term Outlook
The long term outlook for people suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy is dependent on how long alcohol was abused, and the severity of the abuse. These are the factors that will determine the extent of damage. The lesser the damage, the greater the chance of complete recovery. If the damage is irreversible, it can be hard for the heart and body to recover.

If the disease is caught in early stages, however, the condition is treatable and, in some cases the damage can be reversed. The possibility of recovery is largely dependent on the individual’s willingness to avoid alcohol and to adhere closely to the plan of treatment.

If you or someone you know is abusing alcohol, we urge you to seek help. The effects of alcohol can be detrimental and dangerous.

senior woman smiling at her caregiver

A Generous Heart May Help You Live Longer

Usually, when it is said of someone that he or she has a good heart, it means that someone is generous, or caring. That they take time out to do unto others. However, in more literal terms, a good heart is associated with good cardiovascular health. Having a good heart means quite simply that your heart is in good condition. But, could they be one and the same? New studies show that volunteering, besides being mentally beneficial, can also have a positive impact on physical health. Need evidence? Here are what some experts are saying about how having a good heart can lead to having a good heart.

Mental and Physical Benefits
Anyone who has ever volunteered knows how mentally and emotionally rewarding it can be. Not only do volunteers feel as if they have made a positive change, studies show that donating time can lead to a feeling of greater social connectedness, and less depression and loneliness. However, new evidence reveals that people who volunteer may also be gifted with long lifespans and low blood pressure readings.

A study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in this month’s edition of Psychology and Aging, shows that those who give time to others may have better health than those who do not. Findings revealed that adults over 40 who volunteered regularly were at a lower risk for high blood pressure than those who did not volunteer. High blood pressure is an accurate health indicator because it is linked to stroke, heart disease, and premature death.

Because it is possible that volunteers may also take part in other health conscious activities, such as exercise and healthy eating, it is not possible to prove that volunteering was the sole reason for the lower blood pressure readings, but the results do seem to point in that direction.

woman working at animal shelter

How It Works
If you are wondering how exactly volunteering contributes to better health and longer life, Rodlescia Sneed, lead author of the Carnegie Mellon study, may have some insight on the phenomena. One explanation may be the increased physical activity volunteering can provide for those who are not otherwise very active. Another may be stress reduction. According to Sneed, “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked with health outcomes.”

If you are thinking of volunteering, and want to know how to get the maximum benefits from your do-gooding, Carnegie Mellon is on top of it. According to the study, it takes 200 hours of volunteering annually to reap the rewards of low blood pressure, although other studies have found as little as 100 hours will do the trick. As for types of volunteering, that remains unknown. However, Sneed speculates that it is the more mentally stimulating activities, like reading and tutoring, that lead to sharper thinking and memory skills, whereas “activities that promote physical activity would be helpful with respect to cardiovascular health, but no studies have really explored this.”

In conclusion, one thing does seem clear; the best results of volunteering come when it is done for the right reasons. A 2012 study published in the Health Psychology journal found that those who benefitted most from volunteer work were those whose intentions were altruistic. In other words, it has to come from the heart if the rewards are going to end up there.

Do you do volunteer work? How do you find it affects you? Let us know what you’re doing for others and what you think it might be doing for you!

Healthy food

Popular Health Food Myths

Eating pop rocks with soda can make you explode. This is perhaps the most popular and most bizarre food myths of all time. Although some may argue that the two together may be a lethal combination, it is not because of its likelihood to cause human combustion. While the fate of Mikey of Life Cereal fame may be unknown, it is safe to say he did not suffer death by Poprock. With the rate at which information about food changes , it is often hard to determine which facts from fiction. Here are some of the most commonly believed food myths that may seem all too easy to believe.

Low Fat Food is Better for You
Look at food labels to determine what kinds of fats are in foods before reaching for the low fat version. Seattle based dietitian Andy Bellatti says, “A good intake of healthful fats is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Prioritize mono saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Many low fat diets are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates which are increasingly becoming linked to increased heart disease.” Low fat food are often low in good fats, which are necessary to cholesterol management and absorption of nutrients and also contain high levels of sugar and sodium to compensate for the blandness of the taste quality.

Dairy Is Best For Healthy Bones
According to Bellatti, too many people confuse dairy with calcium. “Dairy contains calcium, but so do dark-leafy greens. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, just like all milk alternatives. Additionally, bone health goes beyond calcium and vitamin D.” Vitamin K is important for bone health and leafy green have it while dairy products do not. Magnesium, also absent from dairy, is important for bone health as well.

Assorted dairy

If you’re concerned about the health of your bones, you’re best bet is to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet and, as the Harvard School of Public Health points out, “milk isn’t the only, or even best source of calcium.” Collard greens, kale and bok choy may be considerably better sources of both calcium and vitamin D.

Drink 8 Glasses of Water per Day
Boston based nutritionist Alannah DiBona says there is no given rule for how much water a person needs in a day. “Water’s been touted as the cure for all sins, and in some ways, it’s true – proper hydration is necessary for just about anything body and mind-related. However sixty- four ounces per day isn’t always going to be the right number for you.” Instead, try to determine your water intake by dividing your body weight in half and trying to drink that number in ounces of water daily.

Dibona also urges us to “Remember that water is available to you through all liquids, fruits, vegetables, and that the mark of proper hydration is a very light yellow-colored urine.”

Eating Eggs Raises Cholesterol
According to DiBona, “More often than not, a person diagnosed with high cholesterol will go out of his or her way to avoid eggs, which is really unnecessary. The body’s cholesterol levels are influenced by certain saturated and trans fats; eggs contain very little saturated fat and absolutely no trans fat. Depriving yourself of an egg means foregoing 13 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and a really delicious breakfast item.”

Poached egg

High Sodium Foods Taste Salty
While there is no doubt that management of salt and sodium intake are important, especially for those with diabetes and hypertension, you should know that salty taste is not necessarily characteristic of high sodium foods. Belatti explains, “While surface salt is noticeable, stealth sodium, added during processing, is harder to taste. This is why many people don’t realize that a Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin contains as much sodium, as 9 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.” He stresses the importance of looking up nutrition information to check the sodium content of foods at your favorite restaurants and eateries.

What other food myths do you want to debunk? Let us know!