Shocking scans reveal damage two glasses of wine can have on your heart

Starting to struggle with Dry January? Well we have some news that might just get you back on the wagon.

Drinking a lot has been known to be a risk factor of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat), but now a new study has shown that even mild alcohol consumption can cause tissue damage.

While those who drink around 14 glasses a week could cause some scarring and disruption in electrical signalling, Australian scientists have found.

Drinking wine several times a week can cause tissue damage to your heart (Picture: Getty Images)

Atrial fibrillation raises the risk of having a stroke or heart failure, meaning drinking habits could signpost future heart problems.

Experts at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne split 75 volunteers with the condition into three categories, depending on how much they drink per week.

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Their hearts were then scanned to see the impact alcohol had had on how well electricity travels through the atrium – where blood enters the heart.

Electrical signals are vital to the function of the heart because and tell it when to contract and relax, meaning they need to be able to flow freely and regularly through undamaged tissue.

The scans showed a non-drinkers heart as entirely pink, meaning it was full of healthy tissue through which full-strength electric signals could flow.

The non-drinker’s heart (top left) showed up completely pink while the moderate drinker (top right) had patches of damage (Picture: HeartRhythm)

A mild drinker, who drinks up to seven drinks a week, was revealed to have patches of tissue damage.

However, scientists said this was not too concerning.

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But the scan for a moderate drinker, who had between eight to 21 alcoholic beverages a week, showed large patches of scarring where electrical signals would be weaker.

At present, the NHS’s recommended weekly limit is 14 units of alcohol, which equates to around nine glasses of wine or seven pints of beer.

Lead researcher Dr Peter Kistler said: ‘This study underscores the importance of excessive alcohol consumption as an important risk factor in AF.

The NHS recommends drinking 14 units of alcohol a week (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘Regular moderate alcohol consumption, but not mild consumption, is an important modifiable risk factor for AF associated with lower atrial voltage and conduction slowing.

‘These electrical and structural changes may explain the propensity to AF in regular drinkers.

‘It is an important reminder for clinicians who are caring for patients with AF to ask about alcohol consumption and provide appropriate counselling in those who over-indulge.’

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Studies show that mildly damaged heart tissue can be repaired if the person abstains from alcohol, eats a low salt diet and exercises regularly.

Partaking in physical activity can coax stem cells into producing new tissue, scientists from Liverpool John Moores University found in 2012.

However, in severe cases, the person may need to seek medical intervention to reverse the impact of alcohol.

Last year Public Health England data revealed that alcohol is now the sixth most common cause of disability among people in their 50s and 60s, up from 16th in 1990.


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