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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Heart attack, stroke, alcoholism

Riley and I spent a good deal of time with a Veterans Administration doctor last week. Of course we had to give her some history of previous illnesses, hospitalizations, etc. I mentioned that he had a heart attack in 2012 and has not been drinking since then. I was surprised to hear her say “Alcoholism does not cause heart attacks or strokes.” I disagreed with her and was met with a kind of stern look. I replied, “In my research, I discovered that excess drinking can cause cardiacmyopathy.” Then I dropped the discussion.

This is a trained doctor who should know and understand the affects of excessive drinking on the human body. But, for some reason, she doesn’t seem to be educated in that aspect of anatomy or in alcoholism. I guess it really isn’t her fault. Doctors get very little education on alcoholism. They have to opt to take the special programs on that.

For those of you who have gotten the same erroneous info, I wanted to give you a little education on how excessive drinking can lead to heart attacks and strokeks.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy is the name of the disorder that refers to the
weakening of the heart muscle causing it to be unable to pump blood efficiently. Alcohol is a toxin and toxins weaken and thin the heart muscle. With drinking excessively over a long period of time the heart becomes weaker and pumps the blood slower causing damage not only to the heart but to other tissues and organs. When the heart can’t pump out enough blood, the heart starts to expand to hold the extra blood. This causes the heart to become thinned and enlarged. Eventually, the heart stops function causing a heart attack.

Often few symptoms occur related to alcoholic cardiomyopathy. When symptoms do present they are often in the form of fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling of the legs and feet, generalized weakness, dizziness, loss of appetite and a rapid, irregular pulse. Of course, for an alcoholic, those symptoms are all common occurrences on a daily basis of simply being drunk.

Intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused by a bleeding in the brain rather than a blood clot. In short if there is some kind of damage to the head, i.e., a fall or something of that nature, the weakened blood vessels which carry blood that is already thinned by alcoholic will have a tendency to break and cause a bleed into the brain. The more a person drinks for a longer period of time the weaker the blood vessels become and the more likelihood of a stroke occurring.

I know my explanations are simplified versions, but all the research I lead me to complicated medical mumble jumble that took a lot of deciphering.


I don’t know if the doctor we had at the VA didn’t understand the quantity or the duration of Riley’s alcoholism, but she clearly missed the mark. So if you are in a doctor’s office with your alcoholic and the doc tells you there is no connection between the drinking and a heart attack or stroke. Give them a copy of this post. I’m not a doctor, but I was able to find all this info on the web. I didn’t post links because there was just too darn many of them to list. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My brother was also morbidly obese along with late stage alcoholic. This is exactly what happened to him. 2 weeks in the hospital trying to get his heart condition in control. Died within a week of being released from a heart attack. Thank you for the information.

Mary