Many people only focus on the short-term consequences of drinking alcohol, such as pain from a hangover or getting arrested from risky actions resulting from intoxication. It is very true that drunken stumbling nights put you at risk for injuring yourself and others, especially if you choose to operate a vehicle. However, the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse can be just as severe. If you are a chronic drinker, you can suffer from the effects of alcohol for the rest of your life. Research shows alcohol has been linked to over 60 diseases, some irreversible, and even life-threatening. Here are 5 of the most serious alcohol-linked diseases heavy drinkers need to watch out for.
One of the deadliest alcohol-linked diseases, cancer is a disease that can start in one place within your body and spread throughout, making it even more dangerous, life-threatening, and difficult to live with. Alcohol has been linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, breast, colon, and rectum. Each drink consumed puts harmful pressure on organs within the body, damaging the tissues. Alcohol can cause inflammation within the liver, exposing the liver to toxic chemicals, therefore causing liver cancer. Alcohol also increases levels of estrogen in the body, putting women at risk for breast cancer.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and the UK. Heavy drinkers can damage their heart from excessive drinking. However, just having a couple glasses of wine throughout the week can still contribute to shrunken arteries, therefore putting more pressure on your heart to pump blood throughout the body. As alcohol makes it harder to pump blood and regulate blood flow, the risk of heart failure rises.
Gout is a disease similar to arthritis. It is very painful and effects the joints. Alcohol increases your chances of experiencing symptoms of gout, with beer being the most influential source. The kidney’s function normally by excreting uric acid, which is the result of the breakdown of purine nucleotides (which can be found in some drinks). Too much uric acid can cause gout. Consuming alcohol forces the kidney to secrete alcohol instead of the uric acid, which then increases this acid within the blood stream, triggering attacks of gout.
Acute and chronic pancreatitis occur when the pancreas is inflamed, causing severe pain. Heavy drinking can cause either of these alcohol-linked diseases. Research is still being conducted on exactly how alcohol causes these diseases; however, many believe alcohol molecules disrupt the cells within the pancreas, causing havoc and pain. Pancreatitis causes pain and suffering on its own, but being a candidate for pancreatitis also promotes risk for another disease, diabetes. Damaging your pancreas with alcohol weakens it ability to make insulin, which is needed to regulate blood sugar. In turn, the risk for diabetes greatly increases. No matter how much you drink, lowering your drinking patterns significantly decreases your chances of getting pancreatitis and preventing it from happening again.
5. Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis
The liver plays a heavy role in filtering out toxins within the body. Excessively consuming alcohol tends to create scar tissue in replacement of healthy tissue, creating a condition called alcoholic liver cirrhosis. This disease is very painful and can cause confusion, internal bleeding, and a buildup of fluid within the stomach. Medications can treat alcoholic liver cirrhosis, but it is always recommended to decrease alcohol intake, so your liver can start to function normally again.
You Can Prevent Alcohol-Linked Diseases
While drinking alcohol can cause catastrophic short-term effects, it’s the long-term effects that sneak up on you and do the most serious health damage to most drinkers. The diseases listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more diseases linked to heavy alcohol consumption, some so intense they require hospitalization. Don’t let a fun night turn into a detrimental pattern that ruins your health and takes years off your life.
American Cancer Society. (2017). Alcohol Use and Cancer. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html
CDC. (2017). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
Drinkaware. (2016). Alcohol and Heart Disease. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/diseases/alcohol-and-heart-disease/
Drinkaware. (2016). Alcohol and Pancreatitis. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/diseases/alcohol-and-pancreatitis/
Everyday Health. (2011). 6 Drinks that Can Increase Your Gout Risk. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.everydayhealth.com/gout-pictures/7-drinks-that-can-increase-your-gout-risk.aspx#03
GoutandYou.com (2018). Gout and Alcohol. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://goutandyou.com/gout-and-alcohol/#trackbacks
Healthline. (2017). Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy and Your Health. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/cardiomyopathy
Healthline. (2016). Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholic-liver-cirrhosis
Web MD. (2018). Alcohol Abuse Directory. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-abuse-directory
Web MD (2018). 12 Health Risks of Chronic Heavy Drinking. Retrieved on May 7th 2018 at https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/12-health-risks-of-chronic-heavy-drinking#3
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