Health Risks of Alcohol
by Contributing Writer
Alcohol, an ingredient found in beer, wine and liquor, is made by fermenting yeast, sugar and starches. It is quickly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream, then the liver metabolizes a small amount of alcohol and the excess circulates to other organs in your body. Over time, high amounts of alcohol in your bloodstream can increase your risk of developing several diseases and disorders.
Alcohol is linked to the development of several diseases, including cirrhosis of the liver, which is caused by high levels of alcohol consumption. Your damaged liver is unable to make proteins, fight infections, clean your blood, and digest food or store energy.
Alcohol is also linked to pancreatitis, high blood pressure, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms. You can develop alcoholic polyneuropathy, which causes permanent nerve damage, or alcoholic gastritis, inflammation of the stomach.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol also can lead to alcohol-dependence syndrome and alcoholic psychosis, the inability to relate to your environment or to other people.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to cancer of the esophagus, liver, throat and tongue. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing these diseases. Moderate consumption of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to depression. Evidence shows there is a relationship between alcohol and depression in patients being treated for alcoholism. Studies show that the effects of depression decrease when your alcohol consumption decreases.
Fetal Health Risks
Women who drink high levels of alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in the developing fetus. Fetal alcohol syndrome slows brain development and can result in physical abnormalities. FAS inhibits the growth of the developing fetus and increases the risk of spontaneous abortion. It also increases the child's risk of alcoholism in the future. Babies born to mothers who drink excessively during pregnancy are at risk for low birth weight and premature birth.
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of a physical injury. Alcohol is linked to traffic accidents because of slowed coordination, which begins when your blood alcohol level reaches 0.04 percent. Drinking alcohol decreases your awareness of the consequences of your actions, leading to aggressive behavior and violence. Alcohol consumption also impairs judgment and problem-solving abilities.