Health risks of alcohol are wide-ranging. Besides severe health effects, alcohol consumption also has a host of social consequences as well.
A large body of scientific evidence shows that heavy drinking causes many health problems, including liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, nervous system damage, and stroke.
Other health problems caused by alcohol include high blood pressure, diabetes, pancreatitis, and several types of cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast).
Excessive alcohol use causes more than 2.5 million annual deaths globally. Drinking causes substantial health and social problems in more than 200 countries.
Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability and is a major risk factor for infectious and chronic diseases. Alcohol misuse costs the global economy, on average, one percent of GDP.
So, while you can avoid a hangover on January first, if you continue drinking, the health risks of alcohol may become inevitable.
At ListPink, we are interested to dive deep into the major health problems drinking can cause. Continue reading to get a deeper knowledge of all the major health risks posed by alcohol.
Health Risks of Alcohol: 12 Ways Drinking Effects Your Health
As we said earlier, the health risks of alcohol are wide-ranging. Below are the 12 ways alcohol damages major systems and organs of your body:
1. Central Nervous System Damage
One of the most common causes of brain damage and brain diseases is alcohol abuse. When you drink alcohol, it travels through your bloodstream and interferes with your brain’s ability to send and receive signals. This makes mind-body coordination more difficult.
The brain is especially sensitive to alcohol, and drinking too much can cause cell death in the brain, leading to stroke and other health problems. Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke by as much as 500% in women and 300% in men.
As the damage increase with continuous alcohol consumption, you may feel numbness and tingling feeling on your feet and hands.
As for memory functions, drinking reduces the ability of the brain to keep long memories. Over time, you may find it difficult to think clearly and make rational decisions.
Long-term alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse can lead to frontal lobe damage with time. This part of the brain is responsible for, besides other vital functions, emotional control, short-term memory, and judgment.
Severe alcohol abuse and chronic drinking can also cause permanent brain damage. Alcohol-inflicted brain damage can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that affects memory.
2. Cardiovascular Diseases
As your blood circulates throughout your body, it passes through your heart and lungs. This process is called circulation. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues and removes waste products from those cells.
When you drink alcohol, it interferes with your bloodstream’s ability to carry oxygen to your organs and tissues. This can cause damage to your heart and brain.
Drinking can also cause blood vessels to become inflamed. This increases the risk of blood clots. A clot can travel to your brain and cause a stroke. It can also travel to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.
In addition to these risks, alcohol can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart failure. It can also increase your risk of developing arrhythmia.
3. Liver Damage and Cirrhosis
To understand how alcohol damages the liver, it is important to understand what the liver is and its functions. The liver is a complex organ that performs more than 500 roles in the body.
First, your liver is one of the largest organs in your body. It weighs about 3 pounds. It sits in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen, just below your rib cage.
One of the liver’s main jobs is to filter out harmful chemicals that enter the body through food, air, and water. It takes out the bad stuff from your blood and makes the good stuff.
The liver makes a substance called plasma, which is the liquid part of blood. It also makes bile, which helps you digest fat. When you frequently consume alcohol, your liver is forced to work overtime.
While the liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself, you can easily hurt it by excessive drinking. When the damage is beyond repair and permanent, this can lead to scarring of the liver, which is called Cirrhosis. Symptoms of a diseased liver include fatigue, bleeding and bruising, loss of appetite, nausea, and many more.
4. Endocrine Disruption
The endocrine system is made up of many different glands. They work together to release hormones that control many different body functions.
This system is very sensitive to alcohol. Alcohol can damage the cells in the pancreas, which makes the hormones insulin and glucagon. The damage is similar to that seen in type 2 diabetes. Alcohol can also interfere with the production of thyroid hormones and sex hormones.
Frequent drinking can lead to an underactive thyroid and reduce the amount of testosterone in men. By interfering with the hormone system, alcohol can affect blood sugar levels, metabolism, hunger, and cause weight gain and poor blood sugar control.
5. Alcohol and Cancer
Alcohol can damage the DNA in cells, causing mutations that can lead to cancer. Drinking has been linked to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, liver, and esophagus.
Alcohol is also a risk factor for breast cancer. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, women who consume 10 drinks per week have a 50% higher risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who drink less than one drink per week.
Another study showed that excessive alcohol consumption accounts for approximately 4% of all cancer deaths, or about the same percentage as in the United States.
6. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Children with this condition have a higher risk of developing learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and mental health problems.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that a child born to a mother who consumes one drink per week has twice the risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome than a child born to a mother who does not drink at all.
7. Alcoholic Polyneuropathy
Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a condition in which the nerves in the peripheral nervous system are damaged due to heavy alcohol consumption. It is also called alcoholic neuritis.
People who consume alcohol excessively are at a high risk of developing this condition. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is characterized by numbness, pain, and weakness in the affected parts of the body.
A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry showed that alcoholic polyneuropathy can be just as severe as other types of peripheral neuropathy.
8. Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a disease that may result in heart failure.
A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that more than 10% of sudden death cases among people between the ages of 35 and 64 could be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle becomes inflamed, weakened, or damaged. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue.
9. Sexual and Reproductive Health
Alcohol is a risk factor for sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Alcohol can also exacerbate symptoms of erectile dysfunction in men.
A study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that more than half of men in their 30s and 40s experience sexual dysfunction, including impotence and a lack of sexual desire.
Another study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that men who consume six or more drinks per day are three times more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction.
Alcohol interferes with hormone production and the ability to conceive. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, women who consume more than one alcoholic drink per day have a 20% to 30% decreased likelihood of becoming pregnant.
10. Skeletal and Muscle Damage
Alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients, especially protein and calcium. Alcohol also impairs the synthesis of collagen, the protein that provides strength and elasticity to the skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that drinking more than 3 alcoholic drinks per week increases the risk of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become increasingly brittle and break easily. It affects more than 10 million people in the U.S.
11. Immune System Damage
The immune system protects the body from disease. However, alcohol can damage the immune system. Alcohol suppresses the immune system and can make it harder for the body to fight off infections.
A weak immune system makes you susceptible to all types of diseases. The way alcohol weakens your immune system is through the destruction of healthy cells designed to fight incoming pathogens.
12. Social Consequences
Studies have shown that alcohol abuse is linked to violent behavior and suicide. In addition, alcohol has been found to be a factor in numerous cases of domestic violence.
Alcohol impairs the ability to make decisions and control bodily movements and reactions. It also affects balance and coordination. All of these factors can increase the risk of having an accident.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Addiction, alcohol consumption is responsible for a substantial number of deaths from traffic accidents.
Another study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that men who consumed more than two drinks daily were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than men who drank less than one drink a day.
So, what do you think? In spite of all these social and health risks alcohol consumption can cause, why not drastically reduce drinking or completely stop it for good?