Iowa Specialty Hospital

The Impact Alcohol Consumption Has On Health

April 2, 2018

Stethoscope wrapped around plastic heart From your mind to your body, consuming too much alcohol can lead to serious health risks, such as stroke, cancer, and weight gain. If you’ve had a history of over-drinking, speak to a specialist at Iowa Specialist Hospital in Clarion to make sure you’re okay.

The Impact Alcohol Consumption Has on Health
If you’re over 21, chances are high you’ve had an alcoholic beverage or two at some point in your life—and you probably will again. Alcohol is widely consumed in the United States for celebrations, parties, gatherings with friends, and more. With all this drinking, though, have you really thought about the impact alcohol has on your overall well-being?

Iowa Specialty Hospital wants to make sure you’re aware of the health risks of alcohol consumption before your next drink. Keep reading to learn about the major ways alcohol can impact you. 

Heart effects
The dangers and health risks of alcohol are often overlooked or underestimated by Americans, but it can have serious consequences when consistently consumed over a long period of time—or even if too much is consumed at once. The effects of alcohol on your cardiopulmonary system can be devastating. Conditions such as arrhythmias—or irregular heartbeats—and cardiomyopathy—the stretching or drooping of the heart muscles—can result from excessive alcohol consumption, causing serious problems or complications and leaving you vulnerable to a failing or weak heart. High alcohol consumption can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, so it’s important to keep the amount you consume to a minimum.
If you’re concerned about your heart health because of drinking, please see a cardiopulmonary specialist who can perform tests and make sure your heart is healthy.

Liver effects
The liver is probably the first organ that comes up when discussing the health risks associated with high alcohol intake. Since the liver helps filter out toxins and waste from your body, it plays a major role in how alcohol moves through your system. The effects on it can be dire.

Consuming too much alcohol, whether in one sitting or over a longer period of time, can lead to a fatty liver, known as steatosis. You could also develop alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammatory condition that results from years of heavy alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis of the liver can also occur, which is the scarring and loss of important cells. If you consume alcohol heavily, you also run the risk of liver fibrosis, and even liver failure.

Cancers linked to alcohol
Cancer is probably one of the scariest diseases you can be diagnosed with. The thought of your own cells in your body turning against you is a highly uneasy one, and we all know that fighting the disease tends to be a long, hard battle that not everyone wins. If you drink alcohol excessively, though, a higher chance of getting cancer is one of the health risks you’re taking.
Several different kinds of cancer have been linked to alcohol consumption. Breast cancer and liver cancer have been directly linked to excessive alcohol consumption, and cancers affecting your mouth and passageways have been found to be correlated to excessive drinking, as well, including those of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. 

Mental health
Perhaps one of the least talked about health risks of consuming alcohol is the risk of mental health problems and the effect alcohol has on your brain. Alcohol is classified as a depressant and over time, it can lead to serious negative effects on your brain, including dementia, memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Consuming alcohol regularly can actually change the chemical makeup of your brain, decreasing serotonin—a crucially important chemical that plays a large role in mitigating depression and promoting overall mental well-being. 

Changes like this can have devastating effects for you. Depression and social anxiety are often signs of too much alcohol consumption, caused by this change in necessary chemicals in your brain, but a lot of people drink to enhance and change their mood—such as to cope with feelings of depression or anxiety they may already have. This can lead to further depletion and unbalancing of chemicals, which can then lead to you feeling like you want another drink…and then another.

This vicious cycle is often how alcoholism and alcohol dependence form, and they can ruin your life. You could lose your job, your friends, your family, your home—and yourself. Mental illness is no joke, and neither are the effects of alcohol on it. Counseling support or even rehab can help you figure out how to break the cycle and learn healthy ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings and mental illness. If you feel like you’ve been struggling or are beginning to head down a dangerous path, don’t be afraid to—or hesitate to—seek help.

Should you stop drinking?
When it comes down to it, alcohol can have serious health risks associated with overconsumption, both short- and long-term—a loss of inhibition, accidents leading to injury, serious health problems of the heart and liver, a risk of getting cancer, and a likelihood of mental illness—but does that mean you shouldn’t drink at all?

Not quite. Some studies have actually shown a correlation between very light alcohol consumption and a healthier heart (although they’ve been refuted by others), and a glass or two of red wine has been shown to promote healthy teeth and gums. The problems and health risks of alcohol arise when you drink too much in one sitting or you begin to drink a moderate amount very regularly and more often than you should. Iowa Specialty Hospital knows you need to enjoy your life and have fun, but we want to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your mind and body, too.

 

Citations: http://fortune.com/2018/02/22/alcohol-drinking-health-effects/, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body, 
 

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