Chest pains can occur for many reasons, and they should never be ignored. Overexertion, injuries, and viruses are three of the many potential causes of this form of discomfort. Some people also experience chest pain after drinking alcohol.
Why Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Chest Pain?
If you experience chest pain after drinking alcohol, you need consult with your family doctor or another qualified healthcare professional.
The pain you are feeling might be unrelated to your alcohol consumption, or it may be your body’s way of telling you that your drinking has put you in grave danger. The only way to know for sure is to be examined by an expert.
Alcohol-related chest pains may be a sign of heart damage. Alcohol abuse can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension, in turn, can be a source of strain on your heart. If you continue to force your heart to work harder than it should – because of your alcohol use or for any other reason – you can cause both functional and structural damage to this vital organ.
It doesn’t matter if you feel chest pains immediately after drinking alcohol, a few hours after you stop drinking, or even a day or two later. Consult with a professional, complete an examination, and get an accurate diagnosis. Understanding the scope of the problem is the first step toward resolving it.
How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect The Heart?
As we noted in the previous section, chronic alcohol abuse can cause hypertension, which can damage the heart. Possible effects of hypertension include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Irregular heart rate
- Thickening of the left ventricle
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
In some cases, excessive drinking can cause a condition that’s known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. As described on the Cleveland Clinic website, alcoholic cardiomyopathy occurs when the muscles in your heart overstretch and weaken, which causes the shape of your heart to change. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy may also involve the buildup of scar tissue in your heart.
Both the changes in your heart’s shape and the scarring can disrupt the electrical system in your body that regulates your heart rate. This can lead to many health problems.
The following symptoms may indicate that you have alcoholic cardiomyopathy:
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Coughing and having trouble breathing
- Decreased appetite
- Losing muscle mass
- Swelling in or near your feet and ankles
- Bulging veins in your neck
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is not common. The Cleveland Clinic reports that about 1%-2% of heavy drinkers develop this condition. But for those who do have it, the prognosis may be dire.
There is currently no way to effectively treat alcoholic cardiomyopathy. The only possible medical option for people who have this disorder is a heart transplant – and complete abstinence from alcohol is typically a requirement for even getting on the list for a transplant.
What to Do if You Have Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol
If you ever have chest pain after drinking alcohol, here are two important steps to take:
- Stop drinking.
- Make an appointment with your doctor.
If you have developed alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcoholism), that first step may not be easy. But it is extremely important. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate any damage that your body has already experienced.
Once your doctor has identified the cause of your chest pain, they can then talk to you about treatment options. As we have noted previously on this page, chest pains can signal a wide range of potential problems. You can’t begin to heal until you understand exactly what you’re up against.
Your doctor can also discuss options for reducing or ending your alcohol use. Whether it’s in your best interests to drink even moderate amounts of alcohol will be a decision for your doctor to make. But if you have become addicted to alcohol, limiting your alcohol intake may not be possible.
Alcoholism and other types of addiction are characterized by an inability to control how often or how much you use the substance that you’ve become dependent on. If continued alcohol use jeopardizes your health – or your life – you need to stop. But if you have developed alcoholism, quitting can be extremely difficult.
But here’s an important point to remember: Extremely difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
Many people who once thought they couldn’t go one day without drinking have achieved decades of sobriety. With effective treatment and continued effort, your can put your days of abusing alcohol behind you. With the right type of help, you can stop drinking, which will allow you to start living a healthier and more hopeful life.
Contact Phoenix Rising About Alcohol Addiction
If you have found it difficult or impossible to stop drinking, the Phoenix Rising team is here for you. At our rehab center in Palm Springs, California, you can work with a team of dedicated professionals who understand what you have been experiencing, and who know how to help. Contact us so we can answer your questions and assist you in starting your journey of recovery from alcohol addiction. Untreated alcohol addiction can have a devastating impact on just about every part of your life – but don’t ever forget that alcoholism is a treatable condition. When you get the care and support you need, you can regain control of your behaviors and build a foundation for successful, long-term recovery.