Are There Any Risks Associated With Alcohol Use for Someone with a Pacemaker?

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Everybody has a natural pacemaker that sends signals throughout the heart muscle telling it when to beat and how fast or slow it should be beating in conjunction with what the rest of the body is doing. Sometimes, these signals misfire and the recommended course of action is to install an artificial pacemaker. You can live a long, productive life after pacemaker surgery. The required behavioral changes following the surgery owe more to the underlying problem than to the presence of the pacemaker itself. As a result, drinking alcohol can present problems for recipients of pacemaker surgery due to the heart disease, but drinking in moderation, with the blessing of your doctor, is not out of the question.

Sleep Apnea

Two out of three people receiving pacemaker surgery suffer from sleep apnea, according to a 2007 study conducted by Dr. Patrick Levy at Grenoble University in France. Sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, so the presence of a sleep disorder can be a complicating factor for those with artificial pacemakers. The depressant effects of alcohol can worsen an existing case of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, leading to longer periods of obstruction and more frequent arousals during the night. Patients with pacemakers should undergo a sleep analysis before consuming alcohol, even in moderation.

Drug Interactions

There is a wide array of medications prescribed for the various heart diseases, so any pacemaker recipient should consult his doctor specifically about possible drug interactions with alcohol. Some possible contraindications include nitroglycerine, reserpine and propranolol. Alcohol use in moderation can reduce the therapeutic effect of these and other common heart medications, and chronic use increases blood pressure while simultaneously impairing the effect of important blood-pressure reducing medications.

Alcohol Abuse

Excessive alcohol use leads to elevated levels of triglycerides or stored fat in the blood as well as an increase in blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Alcohol abuse is also linked to increased incidence of cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest. Given these risk factors, alcohol intake in patients with artificial pacemakers should be carefully modulated. Some patients fitted with a pacemaker due to an underlying cardiac arrhythmia might be better abstaining entirely, though on a case-by-case basis, a doctor may still allow low-level intake.

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