Experiencing heart pain after drinking can be very worrying. It can be scary and strong pains can easily convince the sufferer that they are having a heart attack. Long-term heavy drinking can certainly cause or contribute to a range of heart conditions, which can lead to heart failure. Binge drinking can also cause irregular heartbeats.
It’s always best to seek medical attention if you think there may be something seriously wrong, but there are many potential causes of heart pain after drinking. Some may not actually be related to the heart at all but could be other types of chest pain triggered by or associated with your drinking.
What Causes Heart Pain After Drinking Alcohol?
It’s easy to confuse any kind of chest pain after drinking with heart pain, but this is not always the case. Heartburn, for example, is not related to the heart but can cause a burning sensation that some people may mistake for heart pain. Some common causes of chest and heart pain after drinking alcohol could include:
- Heartburn and acid reflux – When you swallow food and drink, it goes down the oesophagus and into the stomach, with a muscular ring known as the lower oesophageal sphincter ensuring this is a one-way system. Acid reflux and the pain of heartburn can occur when this one-way system fails. There are a number of potential causes, including pregnancy, smoking and excess weight – but alcohol is also a major cause of heartburn and acid reflux.
- Stress and anxiety – While some people feel more relaxed after drinking, it can actually cause stress and anxiety. Regular drinking is also linked to depression, and there is a complex relationship between stress, anxiety and pain. Even if you don’t suffer an immediate chest pain hangover, alcohol-induced anxiety can last or surface a long time after drinking.
- Panic attack – In some cases, post-alcohol anxiety could even induce a panic attack – which some people may mistake for a heart attack. Symptoms can include a faster heartbeat, light-headedness, breathlessness, feeling hot, headache and chest pains.
- Arrhythmia – An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm, which could be too fast, too slow or irregular. There are a number of potential symptoms, including dizziness, breathlessness, chest discomfort and palpitations – a thumping or fluttering sensation in your chest. There are also a number of possible causes, with alcohol consumption being one.
How Does Alcohol Cause Heart Pain After Drinking?
If your chest hurts after drinking alcohol, there could also be underlying conditions at play. Regular heavy drinking can have a number of long-term effects, including alcohol-related heart conditions.
Some long-term health issues that may be caused by drinking or that could be a cause of heart pain after drinking include:
- High blood pressure – Regularly drinking more than the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on alcohol can lead to high blood pressure. This can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease.
- Alcoholic cardiomyopathy – Alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM) is a cardiac or heart disease caused by chronic alcohol consumption. It can be a sign of alcohol addiction and is a serious condition that can cause chest pain and shortness of breath after drinking alcohol.
- Angina – Angina is chest pain due to a temporary reduction of blood flow to the heart. This prevents the heart from getting enough oxygen, causing pain or discomfort in the chest. Angina can be a sign of underlying serious heart conditions, and symptoms may be triggered by drinking alcohol.
- Pancreatitis – Acute pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time. Severe pain will usually centre on the abdomen but can radiate up into the chest, often accompanied by a fever and nausea. Pancreatitis can be triggered by drinking alcohol.
Regularly drinking too much alcohol can also put a strain on other organs, such as the liver, and can be a causal factor in several types of cancer. There are numerous alcohol-related conditions that could have knock-on effects that cause chest pain. Another possible link between alcohol and chest pain could be if you strained or injured yourself while drunk.
How to Manage Chest Pain After Drinking Alcohol
There are a number of things you can do if you are suffering from heart pain after drinking. Drinking water can reduce dehydration, and lying with your head and chest raised 10-20cm above the level of your waist can help reduce acid reflux and heartburn. There are also medications available for heartburn, and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can sometimes help, depending on the cause of the pain.
If you repeatedly experience chest pain after drinking, the best thing you can do is stop drinking or reduce the amount of alcohol you do drink. If you struggle to be able to do this, it could be a sign of alcohol addiction. One of the defining elements of an alcohol problem is continuing to drink despite negative consequences.
Heart Pain After Drinking vs Heart Attack: The Signs
The symptoms of a heart attack can vary, but the most common signs are:
- Chest pain or discomfort that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away
- Pain that may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach
- Feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
There are other potential symptoms, and many will be similar to those with other causes. If you are worried, however, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek medical help.
When to Seek Medical Help for Alcohol and Heart Pain
If you experience severe chest pain or pain that does not go away, you should always seek medical help. You might also want to seek help to curb your drinking if you regularly suffer heart pains after drinking but are finding it difficult to cut down or quit.
If you’re finding it difficult to control your drinking habits, we encourage you to get in touch with our team today. We have successfully treated many people who have battled alcohol addiction, and we can do the same for you. Don’t struggle alone – reach us on 0800 001 4070 or fill out a contact form, and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss the available options.