Jul 06, 2014 News
By Sharmain Grainger
It has long been established that excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking can result in erectile dysfunction,
a development most, if not all, men would not want to be subjected to. But what many people may not know is that these lifestyle habits have even farther reaching implications, whereby they can affect the heart.
Of note, though, is that an earnest move towards reducing or even abstaining altogether from drinking and smoking could see people immensely reducing their risk of heart complications.
In fact, according to Cardiologist attached to the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI), Dr Mahendra Carpen, two of the most preventable and modifiable risk factors for heart diseases are alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking.
He pointed out during an interview with this publication that whether persons opt to consume one or both, these factors are known to have “very dangerous effects on the heart.”
“I might be tempted to say that cigarettes are much more dangerous but I don’t want to downplay the effects of alcohol on the heart either,” Dr Carpen stated.
IMPLICATIONS OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
He pointed out that while alcohol has the potential of impacting other parts of the anatomy including the liver, constant alcohol consumption has specific toxic effects on the heart.
“I have seen patients who come here (CHI) with heart failure that is caused by alcohol consumption,” said Dr Carpen, who went on to note that while “a small fraction will revert back to normal once alcohol consumption is ceased, quite a significant number do not return to normalcy.”
According to the Cardiologist, while some persons may be convinced that limited alcohol consumption could have some health benefits, there is currently no known safe limit.
“There has been no consistent data to support that you are at risk if you go over a certain amount, but what we do know is some people can tolerate a lot of alcohol without demonstrating many of the adverse effects…Then there are also a significant number of patients who are unable to tolerate alcohol without it causing significant damage to end organs such as the heart,” disclosed Dr Carpen.
He revealed that alcohol consumption can result in the enlarging or swelling of the heart which therefore means that the heart cannot undertake its blood-pumping task properly.
The heart is the sole organ in the body responsible for pumping blood throughout the body via the arteries and veins. But once it becomes enlarged, failure can be the result which often manifests with symptoms including: shortness of breath; the inability to lie flat, walk briskly, run and engage in other energetic activities.
“Persons might find that they can’t even keep up with their children while at play,” theorised Dr Carpen as he outlined the very troubling developments that can occur from alcohol consumption.
And since there is no regulation controlling the use of alcoholic beverages, Dr Carpen speculated that there is perhaps too much consumption in this regard for this practice to be considered safe.
Moreover, another daunting challenge that is associated with excessive alcohol consumption is that of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat among other conditions such as ventricular arrhythmia, which are in fact abnormal rapid heart rhythms that originate in the lower chambers of the heart that can be life-threatening.
“We are not talking about a benign substance by any stretch of the imagination…there has been some talk about the benefit of alcohol but as many studies that show you some benefits about mild consumption of alcohol, there is an equal number or even greater number of studies that show you adverse effects of alcohol.”
As such the Cardiologist is advising that “if you don’t consume alcohol don’t start because you think it might have benefits for you, and if you do consume alcohol pay attention to the potential adverse effects.”
He pointed out that a fact that is often overlooked is that alcohol has the ability to raise one’s cholesterol. “Quite frequently, if you check patients’ cholesterol in this country, elevated cholesterol can be a direct result of excessive alcohol consumption,” said Dr Carpen as he explained that high cholesterol can then attack the arteries, even resulting in blockages and leading to heart attack.
TOBACCO CONSUMPTION EFFECTS
Although there are global efforts to combat the effects of tobacco consumption, so much so that there are legislations in place that ban smoking in some public places in sections of the world, the impact of this substance is yet very evident.
According to Dr Carpen, while an individual who smokes can be subjected to long-lasting implications, there is no denying that the consequences are similar to inhaling second-hand smoke.
“Your smoking can cause you to suffer from a number of diseases, but you might also be contributing to others around you suffering similarly.”
In addition to lung diseases, Dr Carpen said that smoking can cause a number of other effects on the heart. And like alcohol, smoking can result in toxic damage to the internal aspect of the arteries that supply the heart muscles with blood and oxygen.
“It can damage the lining of the arteries and when it does that, your blood platelets go and attach to it and form clots, and once those clots are formed then you have blockages, and when you have blockages there, then you can have a heart attack.”
According to Dr Carpen, a vast number of patients are emerging with heart conditions which are directly linked to their smoking habit. Some of these, he said, are not even afflicted with the customary diabetes, blood pressure and overweigh challenges.
As a result, Dr Carpen is keen on highlighting that “the adverse effects of cigarette smoking are no longer a debate that has been conclusively proven and steps have been taken internationally to combat its effects.”
The Cardiologist is therefore cautioning not only against the use of either heart-impacting factors, but against their combined use, since according to him, “that is a very bad combination…and I am not just talking about the impact on the heart; it affects a whole lot of things in the body and the thing that frightens men especially, is that alcohol and cigarettes, each by themselves and in combination, can cause erectile dysfunction.”
Addressing these lifestyle challenges, Dr Carpen said, requires continued awareness which must embrace a multi-disciplinary approach. He noted that while health officials and other health advocates are encouraged to sustain edification of the nation, people have a responsibility for their own health as well.
The Cardiologist says that a great deal of the efforts in this regard must be intertwined with an education drive driven by medical practitioners, friends and family members too, who are aware of the potential harm of the lifestyle habits of drinking and smoking.
“On a more national level, health policies should address these issues, but at the end of the day it comes down to education to stop these habits.”
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