What Are The Physiological Effects Of Alcohol – We’ve all been there—after a night of indulgence, the rapid pounding of our hearts can make us feel like we’ve just run a marathon. This experience can leave us anxious, frustrated and unable to cope. So what gives? Let’s explore the science behind why alcohol makes our heart beat faster and how we can slow it down.
Before we dive into methods to tame that racing heart, let’s explore why alcohol can cause it to go into overdrive.
What Are The Physiological Effects Of Alcohol
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it slows down brain activity. However, it also has a stimulating effect on the heart, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. There are several reasons for this:
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It is important to note that individual responses to alcohol can vary, and factors such as the type and amount of alcohol consumed, body weight, tolerance and general health can affect the degree of increase in heart rate.
It’s no secret that alcohol can dehydrate your body. However, several research studies have found that people who consumed water along with alcoholic beverages experienced a lower increase in heart rate compared to a group that did not consume water. This suggests that staying hydrated while drinking alcohol may help moderate the increase in heart rate that is commonly associated with alcohol consumption.
Scientists have also found that slow, deep breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation and lowering heart rate.
The parasympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the “rest and digest” system, opposing the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. Slow, deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve—a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system—which causes the heart rate to decrease and promotes a sense of calm.
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By consciously slowing breathing, we activate the relaxation response in our bodies, which helps to counteract the stimulating effect of alcohol on the heart rate. It is important to note that the technique involves deep inhalation through the nose, short breath holding and slow exhalation through the mouth. This rhythmic breathing pattern helps regulate heart rate and induce a state of relaxation.
Here’s a summary of techniques that have been shown to slow alcohol-related heart rate spikes.
We all love a good time, but it’s essential to take care of our bodies, including our hearts. Slowing down your heart rate after a night of pleasure doesn’t have to be a mystery anymore. By staying hydrated, practicing deep breathing exercises, light exercise, meditating and using cooling techniques, you can help your heart find its rhythm again.
If you’re ready to help your heart, mind and body by changing your relationship with alcohol, the Reframe app is here to help!
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Alcohol and health Can alcohol cause brain damage? Discover how heavy, long-term alcohol use can damage the brain and put us at risk of developing alcohol-related brain damage – a disorder that causes cognitive and physical impairment. 18 minutes of reading Read more – When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and affects every part of your body. After the first sip, alcohol rushes to the brain releasing feel-good endorphins and your heart rate can increase. For those who drink alcohol, in the long term, alcohol seriously affects your overall well-being, including your personality and mental health. Most importantly, alcohol puts your physical health at serious risk. Below are the long-term side effects alcohol has on the body over a long period of time:
Heavy drinking can lead to brain damage and memory loss. A recent study examined over 36,000 middle-aged adults and the relationship between their alcohol consumption and brain volume. Researchers found that one to two drinks a day was associated with changes in the brain equivalent to two years of aging. In other words, a 50-year-old who drinks a pint of beer or a glass of wine a day effectively ages his brain by 2 years. Participants self-reported their alcohol consumption during one year, which could lead to inaccuracies if they forgot how much they consumed or their consumption was higher in other years. So while this study is in its early stages, the initial findings contradict the common myth that “a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away.”
Another way in which heavy drinking can affect the brain is through Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (VKS). This debilitating brain disease can be caused by a deficiency of thiamine, a vitamin that most chronic alcoholics lack due to poor diet and poor body absorption. Initial symptoms of VKS include loss of muscle coordination, vision problems, and confusion. If left untreated, the brain suffers further damage, which impairs learning and memory skills. VKS can be treated with abstinence from alcohol and a proper diet, but it can take years to fully recover.
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Heavy drinkers are at risk of cavities, periodontal disease and potentially precancerous oral lesions. Many alcoholic beverages have a high sugar content that causes tooth erosion and tooth decay. Bacteria feed on sugar, so a person with an alcohol use disorder provides the perfect environment in their mouth for bacteria to grow. Acid from wine, beer and citrus drinks also wears down enamel.
Unhealthy eating habits – from excessive consumption of sugar and fat to insufficient consumption of critical vitamins and minerals – are common among heavy drinkers and can lead to gum disease. Bad breath – caused by rotten teeth and infected gums – is one of the clear signs that someone may be struggling with alcoholism. Drinkers also have a higher risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus. In the long term, alcohol has a serious effect on this part of the body.
Alcohol is a sedative, so one of its properties is to slow down breathing. For people who have been drinking heavily for years, alcohol damages the airways and interferes with the lungs’ ability to fight infection. Furthermore, alcohol reduces the body’s ability to clear mucus from the lungs, leading to a higher risk of pneumonia and other health complications.
Opioids, another sedative, are sometimes taken with alcohol to enhance the stress-relieving and sedative effects, but this comes with major risks. When alcohol and opioids are combined, an overdose can occur. The respiratory system can become so suppressed that it cannot sustain breathing. Without enough oxygen reaching the brain, organs begin to shut down and the brain can face irreversible damage. If treatment is not applied immediately, then it can be fatal.
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Alcohol affects the body’s ability to create healthy, new muscle because the substance reduces the rate of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process of producing protein to repair damaged muscles and increase mass. In addition, drinking interferes with the flow of calcium in muscle cells, affecting the way muscles contract. Repeated abuse combined with poor nutrition also hinders the body from repairing damaged muscles.
As a result, long-term, excessive drinking can cause muscle weakness or “alcohol myopathy,” a condition that causes the muscles to lose strength. Common symptoms of alcoholic myopathy are muscle cramps, spasms, numbness and pain all over the body. Acute alcoholic myopathy can also occur temporarily after a night of drinking. A balanced diet, physical therapy and abstinence from alcohol can help reverse this condition.
During intoxication, it becomes difficult for the pupils to constrict and dilate as they normally would. The automatic physiological function becomes impaired, and the eyes cannot adapt quickly