Smoking and drinking causes heart attacks

Alcohol, cigarettes and the like: that's how damaging they are to the heart

Unfortunately, it is true: What tastes good or is supposedly good is often anything but good for the heart and circulation. Cigarettes to relax, sweets as a reward or a beer after work - if you really want to live healthy, you should avoid most luxury foods. Or at least enjoy them in moderation


Tobacco consumption narrows our veins and makes us sick - with every single puff. However, those who quit smoking can reverse some of the consequences. More than 100,000 people die every year in Germany as a result of smoking - around one in two of them from cardiovascular disease (the others mostly from cancer or respiratory problems). Atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and strokes, but also abdominal aortic aneurysms, occur much more frequently among smokers than among non-smokers. The risk of suffering a heart attack is doubled in smokers over the age of 60, and many times higher in younger people.

In addition, any type of tobacco consumption is harmful, whether in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes or water pipes. The more and the longer a person has smoked, the more likely they are to get sick. There is no safe minimum dose. And passive smoking also increases the risk of illness.

The consequences of smoking arise from the effects of the numerous ingredients in tobacco smoke in the body: Among other things, the inner walls of the vessels and the heart muscles are damaged, the blood lipid levels are negatively influenced and the formation of clots is promoted.

Therefore, medical professionals strongly advise every smoker to quit. Anyone who cannot overcome addiction on their own should seek medical advice. In addition to therapy and counseling offers, there are nicotine replacement preparations such as nicotine patches and medication that can alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

The effort is rewarded: If you stop smoking, the likelihood that a deposit in the arteries will tear open and cause a heart attack is almost immediately reduced. In the long term, the increase in arteriosclerotic plaques also slows down. After ten to 15 years of abstinence, the risk of cardiovascular disease in ex-smokers approaches that of people who have never smoked - but without ever reaching their level.


Too much alcohol can cause massive heart damage. But can small amounts protect it? Alcohol is not only highly addictive (around 1.8 million people in Germany are considered dependent), its consumption is often responsible for liver damage or depression and increases the risk of developing numerous types of cancer. If consumed in excess, alcohol can also trigger dangerous cardiac arrhythmias, cause cardiac muscle diseases and, in the long term, lead to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and strokes.

The exact mechanisms of action of alcohol are not known; it is suspected, among other things, that it promotes the release of blood pressure-increasing hormones.
The relationship between dose and effect is clear: the more alcohol, the higher the likelihood of disease. With one exception: Compared to abstainers, people who drink little alcohol have a slightly lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and, in particular, suffering from a heart attack. Numerous studies have shown such a connection.

However, more recent evaluations show: A possible protective effect for the heart and circulation is at least outweighed by the increasing risk for other diseases. This also applies to alcohol: there is no harmless or even beneficial dose, but at most a limit up to which alcohol consumption only slightly increases the risk of illness.

However, it is not easy to determine this exactly - and some experts even consider it fundamentally wrong to specify limit values ​​for low-risk drinking. A large study from 2018, on the other hand, recommended that you do not consume more than 100 grams of pure alcohol per week. That corresponds to roughly one liter of wine or 2.5 liters of beer - spread over seven days. If you drink a glass of wine every evening, you shouldn't make it too full, otherwise you will already exceed this limit. But this applies to both genders: the study was unable to identify any reason to allow men more alcohol than women.


No matter how healthy someone else lives: Those who eat too much sugar are more likely to die of a heart condition. For a long time, experts assumed that foods and drinks rich in sugar mainly damage the heart indirectly: because they lead to obesity and diabetes.

But apparently sugar is also a direct risk factor. For example, in one study, researchers discovered that people who drink high-sugar drinks often and regularly increased their risk of high blood pressure. And a large study in the USA - for which the eating habits of more than 10,000 people were evaluated over a period of around 15 years - came to the result: the more sugar the test subjects consumed, the higher the probability of developing cardiovascular disease. Suffering from getting sick and dying.

Regardless of how many calories they consumed in total or whether they were overweight. Which mechanism causes the higher mortality is still largely unclear. Ingesting a lot of sugar may cause the liver to release larger amounts of harmful fatty substances into the bloodstream, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis.

Read about how the consumption of fat and salt affects the heart GEO KNOWLEDGE Health "The Heart".