Alcohol is one of life’s little pleasures. A glass of wine with dinner or a beer with friends can be something to look forward to at the end of a long day. However, we all know moderation to be the key to enjoying alcohol rather than suffering from it. Alcoholism is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It’s a serious topic, and it’s important to understand the health risks posed by drinking too much.
Brain Of course we know alcohol affects the brain! Achieving a good “buzz” is the main reason many people drink in the first place. That feeling can begin to cause negative effects over time. While alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells, it does limit how much information is shared by your neurotransmitters. Long-term, this can cause permanent damage to areas of the brain such as your cerebellum (balance and coordination) and cerebral cortex (thinking, memory, and learning).
Digestion Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on every part of your digestive tract. In your mouth, it can cause gum disease, tooth decay, and even damage to your salivary glands. Alcohol relaxes muscles in your stomach which can cause heartburn and acid reflux. Because alcohol is irritating to the stomach, regular consumption can ultimately cause ulcers and gastritis.
Liver This important organ is probably the first one that comes to mind when you associate health risks with heavy alcohol consumption. The liver is responsible for processing toxins in the body. When it gets overloaded for a prolonged period of time, it ceases to function properly.
Heart While it’s true a glass of red wine can reduce your risk of heart disease, too much drinking can really damage your heart. A condition called cardiomyopathy plagues heavy drinkers, causing the heart to stretch and droop. This condition is what causes shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and fatigue. As few as two drinks a day raises your risk of atrial fibrillation, a condition that puts you at serious risk for a stroke or heart failure.
Muscles Alcohol messes with your body’s hormones and inhibits your body’s ability to repair damaged proteins and build new ones (AKA workout recovery). The worst time to enjoy a beer is right after a workout as a recovery snack.
Pancreas Your pancreas plays an important role in digestion by secreting enzymes into your small intestines. When a person drinks too much alcohol, the pancreas holds the enzymes and becomes inflamed (acute pancreatitis). Aside from pain, if this condition becomes chronic it can lead to diabetes.
Bones As a diuretic, alcohol causes your body to flush calcium away from your bones. This increases the rate at which your bones deteriorate, and increases your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Kidneys Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases the amount of fluid your body produces and needs to expel. Drinking too much puts strain on the kidneys to keep up with this demand, inhibiting their ability to regulate the makeup of your bodily fluids. The end result is imbalanced electrolytes and an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Skin If you drink too much, you will eventually wear it on your face. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, which is why your face flushes and eyes become bloodshot. In an attempt to balance this out, your heart sends more fluid, making you bloated.
How much is too much? Reading the truth about what alcohol does to your body might make you think twice about how much you drink. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking is defined as 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. They further define drinking levels as follows:
• Low: no more than 3 drinks any single day or 7 drinks per week for women; no more than 4 drinks any single day or 14 drinks per week for men.
• Heavy: 5 drinks on the same occasion for 5 or more days within 30 days.
• Binge: A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol content to 0.08 g/dL – typically 4 drinks in 2 hours for women and 5 drinks in 2 hours for men. The rule is to stay in the range of moderate drinking (1 or 2 drinks per day, no more than 7 or 14 in a week). However, choosing to drink less certainly will reduce your risks of suffering any negative effects!
http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics http://www.menshealth.com/health/your-body-on-booze http://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body http://www.medicaldaily.com/alcohols-effect-body-5-majors-organs-are-being-destroyed-your-alcohol-consumption-291440