What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Heart Rate?

Alcohol can cause a person's heart to beat very fast, which is a condition called supraventricular tachycardia.
Alcohol can affect a drinker's heart rate.
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  • Written By: C. Daw
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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To what extent alcohol affects the body has been a subject of debate for a long time, and still continues today. The damaging effects that alcohol can have on a person’s liver over a period of time is already common knowledge among most people. However, the effects of alcohol on heart rate is not commonly discussed, but the dangerous consequences may include diseases of the heart, damage to the heart and even death.

Another impact of alcohol on heart rate is known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). This occurs when a person’s heart starts to beat extremely fast and it is not caused by exercise, sickness or stress. A normal heart rate is between sixty and one hundred beats per minute, but when SVT occurs the heart beat can rise between one hundred and three hundred beats per minute. In most cases, the heart rate restores itself to normal by the time the person reaches the doctor, but it can cause more severe complications.


Alcohol has been linked to the increased occurrence of paroxysmal attacks in a person. Paroxysmal attacks cause a person to have convulsions and can be very damaging to a person. Another effect of alcohol on heart rate is that it can cause damage or injury to the heart and can cause paroxysmal or sudden cardiac arrhythmia. When this condition occurs, without any other signs of heart disease, this is referred to as holiday heart. Sudden death among alcoholics where no other cause can be detected, cardiac arrhythmia is often suspected.

Other effects of alcohol on heart rate are that it can cause irregular heartbeat which is referred to as atrail fibrillation. Heavy drinkers, or those who drink an average of three or more drinks a day, are at a forty-six percent higher rate to developing an irregular heartbeat. Ethanol is found in alcohol and works as a nervous system depressant and when taken in excessive quantities, it will cause the heart rate to decrease. Alcohol will initially cause a person’s heart rate to increase, but when the blood alcohol level rises above 0.25 percent the heart rate starts to decrease, and when it reaches 0.35 percent the heart rate will be at a dangerously low rate, which can cause a person to fall into a coma. This lowered heart rate can cause severe damage to the body and if low enough, death can result.


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