How Drinking Affects Health and Wellness
Alcohol use disorder is a progressive, chronic, and potentially fatal disease that causes serious damage to a person’s physical and emotional health. But even people who are able to drink safely need to be mindful about how the substance affects their body and mind. Despite being widely accepted as a societal norm (it’s estimated that 139.7 million Americans currently use alcohol), drinking even moderate amounts can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. Here are some of the damaging effects alcohol use can have on your health.
How Drinking Affects Physical Health
Excessive alcohol consumption (which is defined by the CDC as at least eight drinks a week for women and at least 15 a week for men) can wreak havoc on almost every idea of the body, including:
- Heart: Drinking too much can lead to an array of heart conditions, including high blood pressure, heart attack, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias.
- Brain: Alcohol misuse can lead to strokes, with studies showing that even four or more drinks a day raise your risk by 35 percent. Excessive drinking can also lead to dementia and other memory problems related to brain damage.
- Liver: Long-term heavy drinking can cause liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is a life-threatening illness that hardens the organ by replacing healthy liver issue with scar tissue. Your risk of liver cancer also goes up if you drink alcohol regularly.
- Stomach: Ulcers are a common consequence of heavy drinking. In addition causing these painful stomach sores, alcohol use worsens symptoms of existing ulcers. Research also shows that alcohol misuse increases your risk of stomach and bowel cancer.
- Fertility: Alcohol use can affect ovulation in women, leading to fertility issues. For men, regular drinking can reduce testosterone levels and lower sperm count.
How Drinking Affects Emotional Wellness
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it lowers activity in the central nervous system. It can have a huge impact on how you feel from an emotional standpoint as a result and can exacerbate already existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Because drinking creates temporary feelings of euphoria, people often turn to alcohol as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, the opposite is actually true — once the initial calming effects have worn off, alcohol actually worsens feelings of anxiety. This creates a vicious cycle that can lead to dependence as a person’s tolerance grows. People who feel the need to drink more to manage anxiety are actually being intensified the anxiety.
How Drinking Affects Decision-Making Abilities
Finally, drinking impairs your cognition and increases your risk of making poor decisions. In many cases, these poor decisions can cause serious physical harm and even death. For example, you might decide to drive while intoxicated and end up injuring yourself and or others.