heart rate of alcohol: can alcohol consumption increase your heart rate?

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My smartwatch shows me that my sleeping heart rate is much higher at night after drinking a few glasses of wine. It is normally around 60 beats per minute, but it goes up to 80 to 100 if I drink more than one glass of wine. Is this normal?

A: We all know that a glass or two of wine can help you relax. But alcohol can also have pronounced effects on your cardiovascular system within hours of consuming it, causing your heart to beat faster, at least in the short term. And in general, the more you drink, the more your heart rate increases.

Experts say that for most healthy adults, a temporary increase in heart rate caused by one or two drinks is probably not something to worry about. But it could be problematic for people with conditions that cause irregular heart rhythms, like atrial fibrillation or other types of arrhythmias, or for those at high risk of heart attack or stroke.

Last year, a group of researchers analyzed data from 32 different clinical trials on alcohol use involving 767 people; most were healthy young men in their twenties and thirties. They saw distinct patterns in how alcohol affected their heart rate and blood pressure soon after drinking.

Heart rate spikes after drinks

In general, a normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Researchers found that consuming a standard drink – typically defined as a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or a cocktail with 1.5 ounces of alcohol – tended to elevate participants’ heart rates. about five beats per minute over the next six hours. With two or more drinks, the increase in heart rate was greater and heart rates remained slightly elevated for up to 24 hours later.

It also affects BP

Alcohol has also had distinct effects on blood pressure. A single drink had little effect on blood pressure, but
when people had two drinks, they experienced a slight drop in their blood pressure within hours. When they had more than two drinks, however, they saw their blood pressure drop at first, then start to rise, eventually becoming slightly elevated about 13 hours after drinking.

The blood pressure results seem to match other studies that have shown that

drinking lightly may have mild cardiovascular health benefits, causing your blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to drop, but drinking more than two drinks at a time can stress your circulation.

It is common for people to drink at night. So scientists have also looked at what happens when people consume alcohol before going to bed. In a study published in January, researchers recruited 26 men and women and put them in a lab for three nights where they were monitored while they slept. On one occasion, participants consumed what are considered “moderate” amounts of alcohol before going to bed: the women each drank one glass of wine and the men drank two glasses of wine. Another evening, the participants drank larger amounts: the women drank three glasses of wine and the men drank four. On the third night, they were all given alcohol-free wine, which served as a placebo.

Moderate vs heavy drinks

Researchers found that when people drank moderate amounts of wine, their nighttime heart rate increased by 4% compared to when people did not drink alcohol. But their heart rate returned to normal in the morning. However, when people drank larger amounts, their nighttime heart rate increased by 14% and stayed elevated until morning. The study also found that alcohol, especially when consumed in larger amounts, temporarily reduced the variability in participants’ heart rates, a measure of the time variation between heartbeats. Higher variability is usually a sign of better cardiovascular condition.

Affect heart rate in social settings

A particularly striking study published in 2017 looked at how alcohol can affect your heart rate in social settings. The study was carried out at Oktoberfest in Munich, the world’s largest public beer festival. The researchers recruited more than 3,000 men and women who had been drinking but were not legally impaired. They tested their blood alcohol levels and gave them EKGs to assess their heart function.

They found that about 26% of partygoers had a resting heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute, a risky but not fatal condition known as sinus tachycardia. About 5% to 6% of participants experienced other types of irregular heartbeat considered more dangerous, including atrial fibrillation, which can lead to serious complications such as stroke. The higher the concentrations of alcohol in participants’ breath, the greater their chances of having one of these irregular heart rhythms.

Dr Stefan Brunner, a cardiologist at Munich University Hospital and author of the study, said his results showed that in general, the heart rate continuously increases with increasing blood alcohol levels, but that not everyone shows the same level of sensitivity. “Some people react more deeply with an increasing heart rate than others,” he said, although it is not clear why. Some people may just have a higher tolerance for alcohol, he said.

Brunner pointed out that for most healthy adults, an increase in heart rate in response to alcohol shouldn’t be alarming, especially if you drink in moderation. “An increase in heart rate from 60 to 80 to 100 beats per minute is not of concern and simply reflects the influence of alcohol,” Brunner said, adding that

You should be concerned if you experience palpitations after drinking or if your smartwatch is warning you of an abnormal heart rhythm such as atrial fibrillation.

You should also be careful if you have high risk factors for developing a heart rhythm disorder, such as high blood pressure or coronary heart disease., or if you have ever suffered from arrhythmias. A recent trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a single can of beer or a single glass of wine can cause an episode of atrial fibrillation in people with a history of the disease.

Dr Peter Kistler, cardiologist and heart rhythm disorder expert, said people with arrhythmias can drink alcohol, but they should only do so occasionally, limiting themselves to just one standard drink. no more than three or four times a week. Avoiding alcohol altogether, however, could make a big difference. Kistler’s research showed that in people with recurrent arrhythmias who drank regularly, quitting alcohol halved their event rate.


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