Alcohol and the Heart
Whereas the toxic effects of acute or chronic ethanol use on cerebral and hepatic function have long been recognized, its role as an etiologic factor in the heart diseases, however, has been slow in developing. In fact, alcohol, at least in modest amounts, has commonly been prescribed as a medicinal agent.
Many observations from our laboratory have indicated that ethyl alcohol may indeed have chronic toxic effects on the cardiovascular system.
We have shown that alcohol, when used even in non-intoxicating doses, elicits a depression of cardiovascular function in normal and unhabituated subjects. Chronic alcohol usage results in deterioration progressing from isolated impairment of muscle function to stages characterized successively by impaired pump performance, cardiomegaly, symptomatology, and eventually decompensation. Various conduction abnormalities and arrhythmias are also common, and a myocardial infarction may appear on a non-coronary basis related to chronic ethanolism. As observed in the canine study, the changes in the myocardial action collagen accumulation, and/or excess of calcium in the myofibrils may be the main pathogenetic mechanism responsible for cardiac dysfunction.
Treatment of toxic cardiomyopathy is aimed at colllrolling the arrhythmias and heart failure when present.
Strict abstinence is the only remedy which will interrupt the progression of the disease process.
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