What Health Risks can Result from Alcohol Use/Abuse
Alcohol consumption is becoming a very popular endeavor even among the younger generation. Many consider it a recreational drink, which individuals should consume in moderation. However, what people do not understand is that alcohol consumption also comes with negative side effects even for moderate drinkers.
Drinking moderately in the long-term will cause undesired side effects. This is because alcohol can be an addictive beverage, which means controlling it so that you can retain the amount you drink is not easy. In this, people start to drink the desired amount and they end up drinking more over time. Alcohol tolerance differs for different people.
People develop tolerance for alcohol at varying rates. However, alcohol tolerance will differ from one person to another even over the same period. One individual may be able to drink up to four bottles of a specific drink whereas another person may only be able to consume just one bottle of the same drink. This said, even the effects of alcohol will vary from one person to another.
Persistent use of alcohol leads to several health risks both in the short-term and in the long-term. Not everyone will experience all the health risks, but they are bound to experience more than one effect. This is especially if the person has long-term experience of alcohol consumption. This is the reason that many research conducted by doctors indicate that the best option is to refrain from alcohol for those who have not started to drink. The following are some of the common health related risks of alcohol use.
The liver metabolizes different foods to help provide the right nutrients in the body. It releases the necessary nutrients back to the blood stream and redirects the toxic substances out of the body system.
Thanks to this, it is the first organ that alcohol is likely to affect. This is because the liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol as well. After alcohol ingestion, it will be metabolized into a substance called acetaldehyde. This substance is toxic as well as carcinogenic in the body. Any toxic components should be removed with ease but persistent drinking will make it difficult to get rid of due to its high quantities.
The level of liver damage is dependent on an individual’s amount of intake and the duration they have been taking alcohol. Heavy drinking worsens this situation as opposed to mild and regular drinkers. It also increases the chance of fatty liver. The advantage of this ailment is that it is reversible once it is detected and medical attention sought.
Heavy drinking causes a difficulty in the metabolism of fats leading to an excess of fats in the body. This is the reason people tend to gain weight fast. Rapid gain weight especially around the belly region raises other concerns. You will notice weight gain around the belly region for many drinkers especially those taking beer.
Other related effects on the liver include alcoholic hepatitis. This is the inflammation of the liver over a long period, which eventually will lead to scarring of the tissues. Long-term use will cause cirrhosis where the scarring will lead to hardening of the liver. Hardening of the liver slows down its functionality.
If the above case will not receive medical aid, it is likely going to lead to liver failure. A malfunction of the liver will alter the functionality of other organs and in the end; it may cause death due to excessive damage.
Cardiovascular and Heart Related Diseases
According to statistics, younger people are showing signs of cardiovascular diseases earlier in their youth as opposed to some years back. The increasing rates are said to arise majorly from alcohol consumption. The following are effects of alcohol to the cardiovascular system and the diseases that they cause.
• Weakens Heart Muscles
Weak heart muscles will make it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Alcohol weakens the heart muscles because they have to work overtime with the aim of providing sufficient pressure to pump blood. The inclusion of alcohol in the blood makes it difficult for the heart to carry out its purpose.
Drinking too much will cause cardiomyopathy, a heart related disease. This disease weakens the heart, which in turn weakens the muscles. This will lead to poor blood circulation and subsequently affect the entire functioning of the body. You will also hear cases of heart enlargement, which occur due to slower vessel contraction.
• An Increased Heart Rate leading to Tachycardia
Alcohol consumption is capable of causing tachycardia which is a situation caused by an increase in the heart rate. Alcohol inclusion in the blood stream causes variability in the functioning of the heart as its electrical system is altered. The electrical system is responsible for producing a heartbeat.
Continuous drinking of alcohol will worsen Tachycardia and in turn cause blood clots. Blood clots in the heart are dangerous because they have the potential to cause a stroke or even a heart attack. When people do not visit a doctor, a blood clot will cause a heart attack that may eventually result in death.
• An Increase in Blood Pressure
Regulating blood pressure is important to function as expected because it is able to sufficiently provide the body with the necessary nutrients. In addition, all organs also function as desired. An increase in blood pressure for alcohol consumers starts with a sharp pain in the chest. The presence of alcohol in the blood causes the heart to use more force to pump it to the arteries. The constant overworking of the heart to pump blood will in turn cause the hardening and thickening of the arteries. At this point, an individual becomes prone to a stroke or heart attack.
• An Irregular Heart Beat leading to arrhythmia
Many people notice a change in their heartbeat after some consistent drinking. This changes how the heart beats. This condition is referred to as arrhythmia. This occurs because of the changes in the electric system of the heart.
It will then cause the heart to beat too slow or rapidly. When it beats too slowly, the heart will eventually fail to function and without medical attention, lead to death. Alcohol also induces acute cardiac rhythmic disturbances, which may cause a stroke.
• Atrial fibrillation
Alcohol consumption will cause the heart’s upper chamber to quivers. The section that quivers cannot fully function. This circumstance is rather fatal for long-term binge drinkers. The heart fails to pump sufficient amounts of blood and the blood circulation slows down.
Ulcers and Gastrointestinal Problems
Persistent drinking causes gastrointestinal problems because it affects the intestines and the digestive system. Some of the signs of drinking alcohol that come shortly after drinking even over short periods include heart burns. Heartburn causes discomfort accompanied with sharp short pains.
Over time, other complications such as stomach ulcers and inflammation of the stomach lining will arise. This is due to the increasing levels of acidity in the stomach caused by alcohol. The more you drink the alcohol, the worse the situation. In such circumstances, it is healthier to stop consuming alcoholic beverages.
Too much drinking may cause bleeding of the digestive system. Since alcohol must pass through the digestive system, it causes surrounding veins to enlarge. Enlarging the veins does not allow sufficient time to absorb nutrients. Depending on the amount of alcohol intake, it will affect gastric acid secretion.
By altering this process, it eventually impairs the surrounding muscle movement. This makes it difficult for the system to move bowel. With the above indications, alcohol considerably damages the gastrointestinal tract.
When people choose to drink on an empty stomach, they affect slowly burn the intestinal wall. Alcohol is acidic and thus the reason it causes ulcers. In the event you are eating less than you are drinking, alcohol will burn the intestinal walls.
Weakening of the Immune System
The immune system plays the role of managing the body cells so that the body is able to fight off diseases and possible infections. By drinking heavily or too much, alcohol weakens the immune system. This leaves your body exposed and vulnerable especially to infectious diseases. This type of beverage will cause changes in the red and white blood cells. In addition, it will affect platelets.
There is a drop in the number of white blood cells because alcohol suppresses the body’s ability to produce these cells. Therefore, these cells remain trapped in the spleen. In this, the more you drink, the more you weaken your immune system. The immune system functions as a result of sufficient supply of white blood cells.
With a weak immune system, a majority of diseases and infections will attack your body successfully. This is evident for diseases, which are not even alcohol related. For example, you can treat other diseases such as malaria because the body cannot fight it off. Common diseases that related to people who drink include pneumonia and tuberculosis.
The Brain (Neuropsychiatric Disorders)
Alcohol consumption has a great impact on the risk of alcohol dependence due to the effects it has on the brain. Persistent and long-term alcohol use may lead to seizures. The seizures are likely to develop into epilepsy.
In the short term, alcohol will affect the functioning of the brain. While it will affect your decision-making process, cases of epilepsy are said to increase due to alcohol consumption and its effects on the brain. The seizures should however not be ignored to avoid fatal outcomes such as death.
People who drink are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency as compared to those who do not. A poor diet with persistent drinking will contribute towards this. In addition, heavy drinking leads to the inability to properly breakdown nutrients.
The gastrointestinal tract is not able to absorb them adequately. In turn, the body does not receive sufficient amounts of nutrients even with a good and balanced diet. You will then notice a gradual weight loss although it will come with a persistent belly weight gain.
Alcohol has the ability to affect the bone marrow’s red blood cell production. This will cause bleeding which will arise from gastric ulcers. The bleeding will develop an iron deficiency resulting in anemia.
Some people lose their appetite after drinking. This sign is evident even with small amounts of alcohol in the body. With persistent alcohol drinking, people will find themselves eating very little. It is even worse when individuals choose to drink on an empty stomach.
Some people have malnutrition but they show signs of body weight due to liver fat presence. In this, they may not know that they are suffering from malnutrition. Since they cannot tell that difference, they continue to suffer internally leaving more fatal conditions.
Osteoporosis is a bone related disease. It affects many people who start to drink at youth and persist to drink more alcohol further into their old age. Alcohol will affect bone health. Other than affecting bone mass, it will also affect your bone strength. Due to weak bones, you are more likely to suffer from bone fractures.
Cases of weakening of the bone structure are also on the increase. This is because alcohol alters the balance of calcium and Vitamin D production in the body. It will also affect the cortisol levels, which makes the bones even weaker.
Excessive drinking of alcohol will gradually cause the weakening of your bones leaving you with the inability to adequately support your body structure. This increases the chance of a fall. Weak bones also prevent you from handling other tasks that may be strenuous.
Alcohol consumption comes with the ability to help develop cancer. Some of the common types of cancer related to alcohol include mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon and breast cancer. These are not the only cancer infections. Alcohol in itself does not cause cancer. However, it increases the risk of getting cancer. This is because it alters the body’s ability to function as desired. For example, by lowering the immune system, your body cannot fight off cancerous cells.
Accidents and Injuries
Alcohol consumption has a direct relation to causing accidents and injuries. This is because alcohol impairs your ability to make the right decisions. There is an increase in cases of road car crashes, domestic violence, occupational injuries, as well as falls.
This health risk is not only affecting the individual who is high on alcohol but also those who surround this person. For example, people under the influence of alcohol may cause a car crash. He or she will not only harm himself or herself but he may knock another car or a pedestrian. This leaves both parties injured and in extreme cases, this type of incident will cause death.
This may arise even from small amounts of alcohol in the body. Small amounts tend to cause blurred vision, anxiety, balancing problems, and a slowed reaction time. This combination is the reason no one should drink and drive or drink and carry out any sensitive and demanding task.
Related Health Risks
The effects of alcohol will lead to other actions that will cause health risks. These related health risks occur directly from the alcohol consumption especially from binge drinkers. The following are some of the related risks to look at:
• Exposure to dangerous activity
Under the influence of alcohol, people are likely to expose themselves to dangerous activities. With poor decision-making capabilities, people will have unprotected sex. This increases the chances on contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Another dangerous activity is operating heavy machinery under the influence. With symptoms such as blurred vision and a lack of balance, it is difficult to operate such machinery. They in turn harm themselves as well as others in their presence as soon as they cannot control the machine. Sometimes they may forget to lock down machinery when it is not in use.
Others will walk in dangerous areas. Cases of an individual under the influence being hit by a car because the individual chose to walk on the highway are on the increase. Some who work in the mines will choose to loiter around the area even when they are off duty.
All the above circumstances indirectly cause health risk because they increase chances of physical damage to the body. Where the situation is difficult to control, there are cases of permanent physical injury and death.
• Medical reactions
N/B: Never mix medication with alcohol
There are times when an individual will fall ill from other causes. After visiting the doctor, they may be prescribed with medication that does not go well with alcohol. It is during their intake that you should not take alcohol. This does not mean that you should take alcohol in little amounts. No, you must completely stop alcohol use.
By mixing these drugs with alcohol, the results may be fatal. This is a normally ignored health risk. Many end up developing seizures and heart attacks, which arise from alcohol complications with drugs.
Binge Drinking and Health Effects
Binge drinking causes adverse side effects that cannot go unnoticed even for someone who is considered to have a high alcohol tolerance. In relation to an individual’s health, binge drinkers will show the following effects.
• Poor balance and coordination
Continuous binge drinking will cause poor balance and coordination. This will cause more physical health risks. This effect is dangerous especially for people who handle heavy machinery. A lack of coordination will lead to poor service delivery.
Drinking a lot of alcohol is dangerous to your levels of hydration. When your body lacks sufficient amounts of healthy fluids may cause you to faint. Also, low fluids especially water will cause other body functions to slow down.
• Continuous vomiting
Persistent vomiting is not just for persons starting to drink alcohol. It is also evident with binge drinking. Vomiting will not allow you to keep anything down. This is inclusive of food other drinks including water. This will leave you feeling weak.
A lot of alcohol will alter your nervous system and thus resulting in an unstable state. A person will shake so much that they cannot hold objects. By altering the nervous system frequently, it will cause continuous shaking even when you are not drinking.
• Loss of consciousness
Binge drinking can cause a shutdown thus causing a loss of consciousness. The body cannot feel much in such situation. It makes it difficult to move and anyone can do anything to the victim.
• Memory loss
Too much drinking alters the mind and it makes it difficult to remember things. you can even forget where you placed your car keys even when they are right next to you.
Alcohol consumption causes health risks not just to the user but also to those surrounding them. Above is a list of possible health risks and diseases that arise from alcohol use and abuse. They affect a majority of the vital body organs and body parts which may cause serious effects. This will range from alcohol effects on the brain, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, liver damage, to the risk of developing cancer. Hard liquor as compared to wine and beers provides effects that are more adverse.
Overall, the best alternative would be to stay clear of alcohol. If you have to, consider very little amounts on various occasions rather than little amounts on a daily basis. It is important to note that even little amounts of alcohol come with some side effects. However, they are easily reversible and they are not fatal. Heavy and binge drinking cause more health risks with a higher percentage of treatment failure.
Different people will show signs of the different health risks associated to drinking alcohol. However, many will show only a number of the health concerns and not all of them. However, when you insist on continuous heavy drinking, the health risks will attack you one after another. The above health risks need medical help. In extreme cases, seek rehabilitation to help reverse the effects where possible.