Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a type of acquired dilated cardiomyopathy associated with long-term heavy alcohol consumption (commonly defined as >80 g per day over a period of at least five years)
Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Alcohol is one of the most commonly available and abused drug in the US. In fact it almost 10% of the entire population are at some time in their lives been addicted to booze. The availability of alcohol increases the likelihood consumption for both adults and kids.

Other than destroying the liver and gut, alcohol also can have adverse effects on the heart. Alcohol destroys the vascular system as well as the heart muscle especially in heavy chronic drinkers.

What exactly is alcoholic cardiomyopathy?

Heavy and prolonged usage of alcohol can lead to a heart condition known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This condition has adverse effects on the heart, where the left ventricle is not able to pump blood throughout the body.

As a result there is blood retention in the heart, this weakens the organ’s capability to function properly.  If unchecked, alcoholic cardiomyopathy can cause heart failure. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy leads to weakening of the heart by expanding the size of the organ and making posterior wall get thinner over time.

Causes of Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy also referred to as dilated cardiomyopathy is primarily caused by chronic excessive alcohol (ethanol) consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption refers to intake of more than 4 units per day for men and 3 for women.

One alcoholic drink-equivalent is described as containing 14 g (0.6 fl oz) of pure alcohol.  To put in simpler terms, 12 oz beer, or a glass of wine.

Long term alcoholism is the major cause of the disease that inflames the heart muscles. Other risk factors for cardiomyopathy include:

  • Genetic factors and family history of heart failure or cardiomyopathy
  • Prevalent heart condition such as heart attacks or coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Patients with obesity that make the heart work harder
  • Patients diagnosed with diabetes and thyroid problems.
  • Patients with long term high blood pressure or hypertension
  • Patients with a history of sarcoidosis or amyloidosis (buildup of abnormal proteins).
  • Patients with a history of drug abuse especially  amphetamines and anabolic steroids

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy occurs gradually over a period of time and sometimes symptoms appear after the disease has progressed to dangerous levels.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy signs and symptoms

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is normally associated with older men who practice binge drinking. The signs and symptoms of alcoholic cardiomyopathy are the result of the heart failing and usually occur after the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

The symptoms have a lot in common with other heart conditions orthopnea. Here are the common signs and symptoms of people with alcoholic cardiomyopathy:

  • Shortness of breath  (dyspnea).
  • Heart palpitations (irregular heart beat).
  • Rapid pulse (tachycardia).
  • Breathing difficulty while lying down flat.
  • Edema (swelling of the legs, feet, and ankles.
  • Fatigue and body weakness.
  • Sudden dizziness or fainting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Decreased alertness and trouble concentrating.
  • Rapid and irregular pulse.
  • Cough that produces a frothy, pink mucus.
  • Change in urine output:decreased urine output (oliguria) or increased urination at night (nocturia).

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy diagnosis

If you exhibit any of the symptoms described above you it is imperative to make an appointment with a physician immediately.  Very often your physician will ask you questions regarding your alcohol consumption history to ascertain the level of alcohol abuse.

During the examination phase the doctor will have to ascertain you have  alcoholic cardiomyopathy by performing several tests.

First off  is physical exam, where your breathing rate,your pulse and monitor your heart rate are checked by a doctor. The doctor will check for sounds of a heart murmur or irregular heart beats. Your jugular and abdomen are checked for fluid buildup. Your legs and feet will also be examined for edema.

Chest CT scans and Xrays are carried out to show if the heart is already enlarged. They can also show any congestion or fluid in the lungs.

An EKG(electrocardiogram) will help measure the electrical activity of the heart using sound waves to make pictures of your heart. It can show your heart rhythm; whether it is regular or irregular. An EKG can also show leaking heart valves and heart attacks.

To rule out any coronary blockages a cardiac catheterization or angiogram can be prescribed by a physician.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy treatment and management procedures

After Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy diagnosis is confirmed, it is highly advisable to completely stop consumption of alcohol. Treatment of this condition entirely depends on whether a person is able to quit drinking alcohol all together.

Quitting alcohol is unfortunately not as easy as it sounds, despite the huge risks that it poses to our health. It becomes hard to stop for chronic heavy drinkers who are dependent on alcohol. Most non-drinkers think quitting is as simple as hitting an off switch.

Heavy, consistent consumption of alcohol makes your body becomes dependent on alcohol over time. Your organs and central nervous system get used to regular alcohol in your body. When intake of alcohol suddenly stops or significantly reduces the body experiences withdrawal symptoms.

Chronic drinkers often relapse due to the withdrawal effects of quitting alcohol.  These withdrawal effects on the body include the following: agitation, nausea, anxiety, constant headaches, uncontrollable sweating as well as shaking and tremors.

Since alcoholic cardiomyopathy is serious condition that can lead to death, patients are advised to enroll in a alcohol treatment program if they cannot stop by themselves.At these treatment centers clinical therapy and rehabilitation procedures help in treating the condition. Here are some great tips that can help you manage and stop consumption of alcohol.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy medication

Some of the common medication  prescribed by physicians include ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers to help lower your blood pressure.In cases where your heart is severely damaged, your doctor may advise that you get an implantable defibrillator or pacemaker to help your heart function correctly.

Other than avoiding the consumption of alcohol and other illicit drugs it is important to maintain a healthy diet. Consume diuretics to help expel excess water and sodium from your body through urine.

Patients being treated with alcoholic cardiomyopathy should get regular exercise, avoid stress as much as possible and make sure they get enough sleep per night. Manage your blood pressure with these important 9 tips.

Avoid foods high in sodium and limit the amount of fluid you drink every day. Excess fluids in your body exert pressure on your heart and decreases functionality.