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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Miscellaneous Cardiology Topics

Question: Racing and thudding heart after alcohol

 jj_jules - Sat May 02, 2009 3:22 am


The last few times I have been out drinking, I wake up very early and my heart is beating really hard, it feels like it will burst out of my chest and it is also beating really fast.

What causes this? Do you think I should stop drinking, as I am worried I might have a heart attack in my sleep!

 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue May 12, 2009 8:28 pm

User avatar Hello --

This is not a really unusual complain, strong palpitations after a bout of serious drinking. While it is sometimes just what it seems, simple pounding due to the body's reaction and especially lots of dilated blood vessels, which makes everything feel a little strange (alcohol does do this while in the blood, makes vessels dilate), it also sometimes is a rather unpleasant variation called atrial fibrillation, which is even more unpleasant feeling and can, potentially, cause indirect problems that can be rather serious. We see a huge increase in complaints about this around the holidays in the US, because a lot of people drink more than they have all year with this result.

If this only happens after a bout of drinking you're probably okay, and should consider just cutting down on the volume of alcohol and the duration, perhaps by learning to nurse a drink, make it last longer. If it's beer this is more difficult than mixed drinks or hard liquor, and so with beer one simply has to put a fixed limit on it and stick to it as a rule. At any rate, this is almost certainly directly related to the drinking and, while it won't cause a heart attack, but it can certainly cause palpitations, arrhythmias and, over time, weaken the heart muscle if the drinking is really heavy-duty, so this is all stuff to consider. Also, drinking isn't necessary to life, and while I'm not suggesting you just stop altogether (unless you discover you have a problem), you could if you had to and it wouldn't kill you. So metering it a little in order to respect this little shout out from your heart definitely is doable. Try it and see what happens. And of course, if this starts to happen when you've not been drinking, come back and we'll talk further, as there would then be something more going on. I don't see that, though. I think this is classic. Just cut your heart a little slack and things should be okay.

Good luck to you. Please follow up with us here as needed.

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