Have you heard of "Holiday Heart Syndrome"? It happens when a non-drinker or a light drinker gives in to the weekend party mood and goes on a drinking spree. If this becomes a habit, then on one ill-fated evening the person may get severe chest pain, irregular heart beat and breathlessness. The blood pressure may shoot up, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death.
If this scenario scares you, then being an alcohol-lover you need to learn what responsible or moderate drinking is all about. According to some of the nation's top cardiologists, when it comes to heart health, alcohol is like a slippery slope. While moderation may help your heart function normally in your golden years, heavy or binge drinking will lead to serious consequences for your cardiac health.
So how much is too much?
Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman (Cardiology) at BLK Heart Centre says that anything in excess of 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine or 45 ml of hard liquor (40% alcohol by volume) a day is bad for heart. Dr Ajay Mittal, cardiologist from Max Super Speciality Hospital in Patparganj agrees. But others say that the level of moderation should be lower.
Dr TS Kler, executive director (cardiac sciences) at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre in New Delhi, says up to 60 ml of hard liquor (40% level whisky or vodka) a week is acceptable. He says 100-120 ml alcohol a day will trigger changes in human heart and its functions.
But most others would draw the line a little higher, cautioning that moderation is the key word when it comes to drinking. "This means an average of one to two small drinks for men and one small drink for women a day," explains Dr SS Sibia, medical director at the Sibia Medical Centre in Ludhiana known for non-invasive treatments for various diseases. "If you can, skip drinking for a couple of days in a month," he advises.
Dr Lekha Pathak, Director (Cardiology department) at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital in Mumbai feels that drinking everyday more than two small pegs is not healthy. "It is true that alcohol, if taken in medicinal doses, has good effects on health but nobody takes it in medicinal doses. Of those who drink, many are real alcoholics not drinking less than three to four large pegs a day," she said.
"Alcohol, especially red wine, has antioxidants and flavonoids that may help prevent thrombosis (formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel). Alcohol's anti-clotting ability may also protect you against heart attack but the excess increases the risk of brain stroke and other illnesses, such as liver disease or cancer," Dr Sibia says.