For centuries, mankind has enjoyed alcohol in a wide range of forms. Today, wine, liquor, and beer are all common throughout the country and are widely consumed. When used in moderation, there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying a drink now and then. But alcohol consumption does have an impact on your health – and alcohol abuse can be a serious problem that leads to a wide range of issues.
Alcohol Abuse Defined
Before you take a look at the impacts alcohol has on your health, it’s worth understanding what alcohol abuse is. While heavy drinking is generally defined as three or more drinks every day, alcohol abuse is recurrent use of alcohol that impacts school, home, or work and continues regardless of the problems it creates. This has various social and personal implications as well as health ones.
The Effects of Intoxication to Your Body
It’s also important to understand what alcohol does to the body while you’re under its influence. While you’re drunk, the following issues occur:
- Slow or heavy breathing
- Memory loss
- Poor coordination
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
For those who are already suffering from various medical conditions, being intoxicated can have an even more severe impact on those health problems. However, it’s worth looking at the different ways that chronic alcohol abuse can influence your overall health in the long-term, not just when you’re drunk.
Alcohol use can have a tremendous impact on your heart and your cardiovascular health. The potential influence of drinking on your cardiovascular health includes the following.
- Increases likelihood of blood clots, leading to increased chance of heart attack or stroke
- Potentially develops cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscles
- Heart rhythm abnormalities including atrial or ventricular fibrillation
- Increased blood pressure
Again, these conditions can develop on their own as a result of alcohol use, but it’s also possible that alcohol abuse will worsen existing heart conditions in patients.
The liver is responsible for filtering out the toxins in the body, and alcohol makes it work harder. As a result, heavy drinking has a serious impact on the health of the liver. This can lead to a wide range of health problems that are directly related to the liver. Potential issues include:
- Cirrhosis, a potentially deadly health issue that scars the liver so badly it can’t function properly
- A condition known as alcoholic hepatitis, very similar to other forms of the disease but directly related to the abuse of alcohol
- Steatosis, also known as ‘fatty liver’, where the liver develops fat deposits and can’t directly do its job properly any more.
Alcohol Use and the Chances of Developing Cancer
It surprises many people to learn this, but research has proven that the excessive consumption of alcohol can increase the chances of developing certain forms of cancer. This is believed to be connected to the fact that the body converts ingested alcohol into a compound known as acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Potential types of cancer that are linked to alcohol abuse include:
- Mouth cancer
- Throat cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
Effects on the Immune System
Heavy consumption of alcohol also causes a weaker immune system. This leads to the development of a wide range of potential diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly. Diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis could be contracted, and your chances of developing flu or other illness is increased as well. Additionally, your body’s ability to fight infections is lessened when you drink heavily.
Effects on the Pancreas
When you drink, the pancreas produces a number of toxic compounds. These compounds can in turn cause you to develop pancreatitis, which is a potentially dangerous swelling of the blood vessels in the organ. It can reduce your ability to digest food properly and lead to other health issues as well.
Drinking has a direct impact on the body’s total count of red blood cells. These are the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, and when low it can lead to anemia which in turn can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness, and more.
Effects on the Endocrine System
Heavy drinking also impacts the endocrine system and its ability to develop hormones properly. This can lead to a variety of health issues including:
- Loss of body hair
- Fertility issues
- Loss of libido
- Low testosterone levels
- High estrogen levels
Alcohol causes the blood vessels to enlarge, which in turn leads to one of the earliest signs of alcohol abuse – red, flushed face. Additionally, acetaldehyde is produced as a result of alcohol use which in turn causes flushing to occur. These vascular changes can be very apparent and even embarrassing.
Mental health is directly related to alcohol abuse, which is a depressant. Heavy drinking and depression are two problems that are commonly linked, and heavy drinking is thought to create depression even in those that didn’t have symptoms beforehand. However, other mental issues are directly related to the use of alcohol as well.
Studies have found that as people grow older, their brains begin to shrink. It’s a normal part of growing older, but in heavy drinkers the shrinkage is faster and more profound, impacting various key regions within the brain and leading to memory loss and dementia.
Skin health is impacted in a tremendous number of ways by the use of alcohol. It is directly related to many of the health issues listed above including the liver, the vascular system, and more, and as a result a wide range of skin problems can occur. This can include:
- Palmar erythema
- Spider angiomas
- Facial redness
- Skin cancer
Additionally, wounds can take longer to heal and stand a higher chance of becoming infected due to the reduced capabilities of the immune system in heavy drinkers. This can lead to major skin issues as well as other problems.
Alcohol use is something that needs to be done in moderation, or you run the risk of developing a wide range of potential health issues. Despite some potential health benefits, the potential negative impacts on your well-being are far too great to ignore.