Why is my heart racing after I drink alcohol?

by Stephen Joseph

For many people, a glass of wine or beer can bring on a sudden rapid heartbeat. This can be a frightening sensation and leads to a rise in anxiety levels, which then contribute to further uncomfortable bodily sensations.

This common type of rapid heartbeat is called supraventricular tachycardia and despite the word ‘tachycardia’ being associated with heart attacks, it’s actually harmless.

So why does it happen?

Alcohol is a diuretic, which is any substance that promotes an increased production of urine. When urinating more than usual, we naturally lose more fluids, including the blood plasma component of our blood within the circulatory system of our bodies. Blood plasma is 92% water by the way.

To make up for this drop in volume, the heart increases the flow of blood by increasing the force of each heartbeat’s contraction. Then soon afterwards there is an increase in our heart rate so as to maintain the correct blood pressure.

This is why you can sometimes feel your heart beating faster when you drink alcohol.

How can the heart rate be decreased?

It’s best to let your heart do what it needs to do, not that you can stop it anyway. Your reaction to an increased heart rate however can be modified. When you’re drinking alcohol and you feel your heart racing then remember the scientific reason for the physical sensations. This fact alone should help you to accept what’s happening with a certain relaxed spirit.

Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. If you do drink, then make sure you also drink plenty of water before, during, and after a social occasion or dinner party. It’s very important to avoid dehydration.

If the rapid heartbeats continue for more than a few hours then it’s sensible to visit your doctor and have some tests done in case it’s not the benign supraventricular tachycardia associated with alcohol intake.

For anyone taking any anti-anxiety medication then it’s probably advisable not to drink alcohol at all, as it likely says on the accompanying medical label.