In a previous blog we discussed the top five health risks of alcohol which include liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers and gastrointestinal problems, and immune system issues. Today we’ll discuss items six through ten.
6. Brain damage
Alcohol alters brain receptors and neurotransmitters and interferes with cognitive function, mood, emotions and reactions on multiple levels. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it causes difficulty with processing information and creates issues with simple problem-solving.
Alcohol’s effects on different neurotransmitters and receptors may reduce a person’s normal fear of negative consequences which contributes to risk-taking or violent behaviors.
Alcohol also disrupts fine motor coordination and balance, often leading to injuries from falls. Excessive drinking can cause “blackouts” or the inability to remember events. Long-term heavy drinking can speed up the brain’s normal aging process, resulting in early and permanent dementia.
7. Malnourishment and Vitamin Deficiencies
Chronic drinking also leads to malnourishment and several vitamin deficiencies as people who drink heavily often have a poor diet. Even if a drinker eats a healthy diet, nutrients aren’t broken down properly, they’re not adequately absorbed and aren’t used effectively by the body’s cells.
Chronic heavy alcohol consumption, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, can dramatically affect bone health and may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) later on in life. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures and broken bones.
9. Heart Disease and Stroke
Heavy drinking triggers the release of certain stress hormones that constrict blood vessels, which leads to high blood pressure. It’s also linked to multiple cardiovascular complications, including cardiomyopathy (weakened and overstretched heart muscles), irregular heartbeat and heart attacks.
Having a stroke is also a potentially deadly complication of binge drinking. Fluctuations in blood pressure and increases in platelet activation are common during the body’s recovery from a binge. This combination heightens the chance of stroke.
10. Accidents and Injuries
Drinking alcohol in any amount is linked to car crashes, boating accidents, bicycle incidents, falls, drowning, occupational injuries, suicide and homicide. Driving ability is impaired with as little as one drink and people who drink usually end up with more severe injuries during an accident. Alcohol use continues to be the leading cause of injuries treated in emergency departments.
The bottom line, no pattern of drinking is entirely risk-free, and there is no reliable method of predicting how or when an individual will be harmed as a result of the chronic heavy drinking of alcohol.