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January 1991

Alcohol and the Heart: The Long-term Effects of Alcohol on the Cardiovascular System

Author Affiliations

From the Section of Cardiology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(1):36-42. doi:10.1001/archinte.1991.00400010060007

The toxic effects of chronic alcohol abuse on cerebral and hepatic function have long been recognized.1 Moreover, it is clear that the habitual consumption of large amounts of alcohol has a variety of deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system. This review considers the evidence concerning the long-term effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system with particular reference to its effects on the myocardium, arrhythmias, blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and alcohol-induced congenital heart disease.

ALCOHOLIC CARDIOMYOPATHY  Alcohol has been known to be injurious to the heart for well over a century.2 Direct alcohol-related heart disease has been confused with beriberi heart failure in malnourished vitamin-deficient alcoholics.3 The clinical features that alcoholic cardiomyopathy and beriberi have in common include cardiac chamber dilatation, tachycardia, elevated venous pressure, and peripheral edema. However, the depressed cardiac output and ventricular hypocontractility of the chronic alcoholic patient4 represent a distinctly different hemodynamic profile

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