Alcohol is so ingrained in our society that most of us drink without a second thought. But just like with everything in life, there are consequences to our actions.
Drinking in moderation won’t have any substantial impact on your health. To be clear, moderation means no more than three drinks for men and two drinks for women. Once you imbibe above moderate levels, you put yourself at risk for various health issues.
Here are six ways alcohol affects your health:
- Addiction – Alcohol works much in the same way that addictive drugs work. And while there’s a stigma that surrounds street drugs like heroin and cocaine, we generally feel no remorse about drinking alcohol. If you drink often enough, alcohol will rewire the pleasure centre of your brain, and you will become addicted. You won’t know that it’s happening, but you can tell you’re addicted after you lose control. If you can’t stop drinking without getting physical withdrawal symptoms, you have become an alcoholic.
- Premature ageing – There is a host of health issues that are much worse than looking old, but this one tends to play on our natural vanity. Because alcohol abuse affects the liver and other organs, an alcoholic’s body isn’t as effective at removing toxins. This leads to more free radicals and the physical signs of aging that we’re all trying to avoid.
- Liver damage – Cirrhosis of the liver is probably the best-known consequence of alcohol abuse, but it’s not the only danger. There are two stages of liver damage that an alcoholic will likely experience before they even get to cirrhosis. The earlier stages of damage are easier to reverse, but you must stop alcoholic drinking in order to do so. This is a very difficult prospect for an alcoholic, and it’s likely why so many long-term alcoholics end up with alcohol-induced cirrhosis.
- Brain damage – Heavy drinking does short and long-term damage to the brain. In the short-term, you may experience blackouts, lack of coordination and memory problems. In the long-term, you are at risk for two dangerous conditions that often occur together: Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome. These are dangerous conditions that may cause irreversible brain damage.
- Cancer – A growing body of research links alcohol abuse with various types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat and oesophagus, liver cancer and breast cancer. Alcohol abuse also lowers your immune system, so you’re at risk for many types of illness.
- Heart disease – Drinking a lot at one time or over a long period of time can leave you at risk for a multitude of heart problems. Alcoholics are at greater risk for arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure and stroke than people who drink in moderation.
Although alcohol abuse comes with scary side effects, many people don’t realize they are in danger until it’s too late. Once someone becomes addicted, they can no longer control their urge to drink. If you find yourself at this point, it’s important to seek help. Alcohol withdrawals can be scary, and this isn’t something you should face alone.