Health Problems Caused By Alcohol Consumption

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It is no secret that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can cause major health problems and accidents. However, there are tons of other health conditions that are closely related to alcohol consumption. The next time you consider opening a bottle of beer, think again, as you may actually causing more harm to your body.

Excessive Drinking versus Moderate Drinking – Knowing their Differences

Excessive drinking is often associated with binge drinking and heavy drinking. Moreover, any drinking done by a pregnant woman or people younger than 21 years old is also considered heavy drinking.

Binge drinking is considered the most common form of excessive drinking. This is characterized by the consumption of four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more drinks for men. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is defined as the consumption of eight or more drinks in a week for women and 15 or more drinks in a week for men.

A standard drink contains about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. This amount of pure alcohol is found in 8 ounces of malt liquor, 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor.

Moderate drinking, on the other hand, is defined as drinking one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Drinking should be avoided by those who are younger than 21 years old, pregnant or may be pregnant. People who are driving or planning to drive or those who are going to participate in activities that require coordination, skill and alertness should also avoid drinking. Those people who have medical conditions should also avoid drinking.

What Are the Effects of Alcohol in the Body?

Drinking too much on a single time or over time can have a serious effect on a person’s health.

Alcohol affects the brain, as it interferes with the communication pathways in the brain. Basically, it can affect the way the brain looks and functions. The disruptions can cause mood and behavioral changes, making it harder for the person who drinks to move with coordination and think clearly.

Alcohol also affects the heart and it can cause certain health conditions like arrhythmias, stroke, cardiomyopathy, and high blood pressure. This applies to excessive alcohol drinking, as research shows that drinking reasonable amounts of alcohol can protect healthy adults from the development of coronary artery disease.

The liver is also affected by alcohol consumption, especially for those who are heavy drinkers. Liver conditions associated with excessive alcohol consumption include fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis and fibrosis.

Aside from the liver, the pancreas is also affected by excessive alcohol consumption. In fact, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to pancreatitis. This condition is dangerous and this is characterized by the inflammation of the blood vessels in the pancreas, preventing it from proper functioning and digestion.

Cancer in various parts of the body like the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and breast is also associated with alcohol consumption. Likewise, a weakened immune system may also be caused by drinking too much. When the immune system is weakened, the body becomes more prone to developing diseases and contracting infections.

Short Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol drinking has an immediate effect that can significantly increase the risk of various health conditions.

One of the short-term health risks of alcohol consumption include injuries acquired from motor vehicular accidents, drowning, falls, and burns. Violence is another short-term risk of alcohol consumption and this condition can possibly lead to homicide, sexual assault, and suicide.

Another short term health risk of alcohol consumption is alcohol poisoning, which is considered a medical emergency. This condition results from high levels of alcohol in the blood.

Long-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption

Over time, excessive consumption can lead to the development of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, heart diseases, and cancer. In addition, this can also lead to the development of mental health problems like anxiety and depression, learning and memory problems like dementia, and social problems like unemployment and impaired relationships at home and in the workplace. Ultimately, excessive alcohol consumption can develop into alcohol dependence or alcoholism.

Other Conditions Linked to Chronic Heavy Drinking

Aside from the common health conditions associated with heavy drinking, there are other unknown health conditions that are linked to alcohol consumption.

  • Since alcohol consumption can cause the reduction of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body, it can trigger anemia. When anemia develops, symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue and lightheadedness can occur.
  • As people mature and age, their brains also shrink. This is considered normal. However, excessive alcohol consumption can actually speed up the shrinking of certain areas in the brain, leading to memory loss and other signs and symptoms of dementia.
  • Depression and alcohol consumption are two concepts that are closely related. In fact, research shows that excessive alcohol drinking can lead to depression.
  • Heavy alcohol drinking can cause epilepsy. Moreover, this can even trigger seizures in people who do not have epilepsy.
  • Gout is a painful condition characterized by the formation and accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. While this condition may be hereditary, alcohol drinking and other dietary factors play a role in the development of the condition. Moreover, alcohol has the tendency to aggravate the already existing gout.
  • High Blood Pressure. Alcohol consumption can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, resulting to the disruption of the control of the dilation and constriction of blood vessels. In line with this, excessive alcohol drinking can cause the blood pressure to rise. Over time, this can lead to chronic high blood pressure.
  • Nerve Damage. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause alcoholic neuropathy. This condition is a form of nerve damage. This condition is characterized by painful pins-and-needles sensation or numbness in the extremities, muscle weakness, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and constipation. This occurs when alcohol levels reach the nerve cells or when nutritional deficiencies associated with alcohol consumption compromise the nerve function.

References:

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
  2. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/12-health-risks-of-chronic-heavy-drinking
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

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