Frequently drinking too much alcohol is harmful to health. Alcohol can have an impact on every body system. How much alcohol a person drinks, genetic factors, gender, body mass, and general state of health, will all influence how a person’s health responds to chronic heavy drinking. I help people reduce alcohol consumption and therefore guard against alcohol long term effects. Get in touch to find out more about sessions.
Alcohol long term effects – the facts
Studies consistently show that, overall, alcohol long term effects are detrimental to health and a leading preventable cause of death. When the body takes in more alcohol than it can metabolize, the excess builds up in the bloodstream. The heart circulates the blood alcohol throughout the body, leading to changes in chemistry and normal body functions.
Even a single binge-drinking episode can result in significant bodily impairment, damage, or death. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of many chronic diseases and other serious health problems. Alcohol long term effects have been found to contribute to at least 60 different health conditions.
The ten most common long terms effects of alcohol and heavy drinking.
Here are some key points about chronic heavy drinking.
1. Liver disease
Excessive alcohol consumption can affect many of the body’s systems. Alcohol is mostly metabolized in the liver, which is why the liver is particularly at risk of damage. The body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, a substance that is both toxic and carcinogenic. Alcoholic liver disease is influenced by the amount and duration of alcohol abuse.
Chronic, alcohol long term effects pose a substantial risk for its development. Drinking heavily significantly increases the risk of alcoholic fatty liver, an early and reversible consequence of excessive alcohol intake. Chronic drinking alters the liver’s metabolism of fats, and excess fat accumulates in the liver. Other effects on the liver include long-term inflammation, called alcoholic hepatitis. This can lead to scar tissue. Over a period ranging from several years to decades, the scarring can completely invade the liver, causing it to be hard and nodular. This is known as cirrhosis. If the liver cannot perform its life-sustaining functions, multiple organ failure and death will occur. Symptoms often develop only after extensive damage has already been done.
Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalization. The inflammation is likely related to premature activation of proenzymes to pancreatic enzymes and chronic exposure to acetaldehyde, and other chemical activities in the pancreas caused by alcohol injury. Around 70 percent of cases of pancreatitis affect people who regularly drink large amounts of alcohol.
Chronic alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing different cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. Both acetaldehyde and the alcohol itself contribute to the heightened risk. Alcohol long term effects for people who smoke tobacco as well as drinking, will have a higher risk of cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract.
4. Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems
High alcohol consumption is linked to alcoholic fatty liver. Heavy drinking can cause problems with the digestive system, such as stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, and inflammation of the stomach lining, known as gastritis. As alcohol initially passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it begins to exert its toxic effects. Damage to the digestive system can also lead to dangerous internal bleeding from enlarged veins in the esophagus related to chronic liver disease. Alcohol interferes with gastric acid secretion. It can delay gastric emptying, and it can impair the muscle movements in the entire bowel. The gastrointestinal tract sustains a considerable amount of damage from alcohol.
5. Immune system dysfunction
Drinking too much weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Alcohol causes changes in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A drop in the white blood cell count can occur due to alcoholism. This happens because the body’s production of white blood cells is suppressed, and the cells become trapped in the spleen. Each episode of heavy drinking reduces the body’s ability to ward off infections. Exposure to large amounts of alcohol and chronic, heavy alcohol use will adversely affect white blood cell production and function over time. There will be a higher risk of pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), HIV infection, and other conditions.
6. Brain damage
Alcohol is associated with blurred vision, memory lapses, slurred speech, difficulty walking and slowed reaction time. These are all due to its effects on the brain. It alters the brain receptors and neurotransmitters, and it interferes with a person’s cognitive function, moods, emotions, and reactions on multiple levels. Because alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it causes difficulty with processing information and poses challenges with solving simple problems. Alcohol’s long term effects on serotonin and GABA receptors may cause neurological changes that could lead to a reduction in a person’s normal fear of consequences to their own actions, contributing to risk-taking or violent behaviours.
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. Alcohol long term effects of heavy drinking can speed up the brain’s normal aging process, resulting in early and permanent dementia. Until the age of 24 years, the brain is still developing. As a result, young adults are especially vulnerable to the damaging long term effects of alcohol.
7. Malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies
Dysfunctional drinking leads to malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies. These alcohol long term effects are related to diet and lifestyle. This may be due partly to a poor diet, but also because nutrients are not broken down properly. They are not adequately absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood, and they are not used effectively by the body’s cells. Also, alcohol’s ability to interrupt the bone marrow’s red blood cell production and to cause bleeding from gastric ulcers may lead to the development of iron deficiency anaemia.
Long-term heavy drinking can cause a form of dementia that affects memory, learning, and other mental functions. Chronic heavy alcohol consumption, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, can dramatically affect bone health, and it may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, with a loss of bone mass, later on in life. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, especially in the proximal femur of the hip. Alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium, vitamin D production, and cortisol levels, adding to the potential weakening of bone structure. People who drink excessively are more likely to fracture a vertebra than those who do not. Drinking high quantities of alcohol during adolescence increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Alcohol long term effects can already begin to set in during early life.
9. Heart disease and cardiovascular health
Heavy alcohol consumption can cause blood pressure to be high by triggering the release of certain hormones that cause constriction of blood vessels. This can adversely affect the heart. Excessive alcohol intake has long been linked to multiple cardiovascular complications, including angina, high blood pressure, and a risk of heart failure. Stroke is 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 deadly combination heightens the chance of ischemic stroke.
10. Accidents and injuries
Drinking alcohol in any amount is linked to car crashes, domestic violence, falls, drowning, occupational injuries, suicide, and homicide. Driving ability may be impaired with as little as one drink, and a person who drinks heavily is likely to sustain a greater severity of injury with an accident. Chronic or heavy drinking poses an enormous health risk. Drinking too much alcohol, whether on one occasion or over an extended period, can lead to severe and irreversible body damage. Alcohol long term effects can include injury or even death. 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.
If you are worried about alcohol long term effects, get in touch to discover how sessions can help you reduce alcohol consumption.