Alcoholism & Addiction

Health Risks of Chronic Alcohol Consumption

Besides the increased risk that you will suffer injury from falling or being involved in a traffic accident, chronic use of alcohol also increases the likelihood that you will experience a host of other health problems.

Cirrhosis of the liver is perhaps the most well-known health risk faced by drinkers, but consuming alcohol actually makes it more likely that a person could face health risks in almost every part of their body.

So while it is commendable to not get in a car after drinking, staying home doesn’t eliminate many of the dangers alcohol can cause. Below are just a few of the dozens of increased health problems associated with chronic alcohol consumption.

  1. Anemia – Heavy drinking lowers the number of red blood cells in a person’s body and red blood cells transport oxygen. When the number of red blood cells goes down below normal levels, a person becomes anemic. Lower oxygenation produces breathlessness, lightheadedness, and chronic fatigue.
  2. Cancer – Doctors say that chronic drinking raises a person’s chances of developing cancer. This is probably a result of body processes which convert alcohol to acetaldehyde which, in turn, is a powerful carcinogen. Cancers most often associated with drinking are: mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, breast, liver and colorectal area cancers. Drinkers who smoke create even greater risks.
  3. Cardiovascular illness – Regular and heavy drinking is known to cause a spike in triglycerides (the fats in blood) which produces high cholesterol and precipitates cardiovascular disease. Excessive drinking also changes platelets making them more apt to clump and form blood clots. Blood clots are responsible for many heart attacks and strokes. The heart muscle can also be weakened through drinking causing a condition known as cardiomyopathy. In its weakened state, the heart may beat irregularly or even stop.
  4. Alcohol-induced liver diseases (ALD) – Drinking heavily damages and kills liver cells. This triggers serious responses within the body which can cascade into a dangerous cycle. Fatty liver, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer are all health conditions which may be directly attributed to chronic drinking.
  5. Dementia – As we get older, a normal brain can be expected to shrink 1.9 percent every ten years. Chronic drinking causes the shrinkage to speed up, leaving a person more likely to struggle with symptoms of dementia at an earlier age. Excessive alcohol use also impairs normal executive function in the brain negatively impacting things like problem-solving, planning and decision-making.
  6. Depression – A strong connection exists between drinking and depression. It is unclear whether depression leads people into alcohol abuse or if drinking produces depression. What is clear through research is that depression tends to dissipate as drinking stops.

More people will endanger their health in a single evening through unwise drinking than will harm their bodies through years of hard drinks. Even so, the person who thinks that drinking at home night after night is safe needs consider the consequences to their health that can occur.

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