10 disease and conditions caused by heavy drinking
We have all been told about the threats that alcohol abuse pose to our health starting from liver cirrhosis to the car crash related injuries. But usually those warnings just focus on these 2 major dangers of heavy drinking, while in fact there are more than 60 diseases related to the alcohol consumption.
It is hard to be aware of every effect that alcohol causes in our body since it’s a pretty complex compound. But here we listed 10 conditions linked to the alcohol abuse that could certainly get your attention.
Alcohol molecules seriously impair your red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen to organs, tissues and what most importantly – to the brain. This condition, when there are too low oxygen in your blood, is called anemia and it brings many symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, constant feeling of tiredness and lightheadedness. Besides the obvious effects on your energy levels it can negatively affect your mood and brain activity. Some people seek remedy in drinking more, which further worsens the problem.
Constant drinking increases the risk of cancer. Our body transforms alcohol into acetaldehyde which is a serious carcinogen. The areas that alcohol-related cancer strikes include mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colon. Alcohol works in synergy with tobacco in creating even higher risks of cancer.
3. Cardiovascular disease
Heavy drinking, especially bingeing, makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. In a landmark study published in 2005, Harvard researchers found that binge drinking doubled the risk of death among people who initially survived a heart attack.
Heavy drinking can also cause cardiomyopathy, a potentially deadly condition in which the heart muscle weakens and eventually fails, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation, in which the heart’s upper chambers (atria) twitch chaotically rather than constrict rhythmically, can cause blood clots that can trigger a stroke. Ventricular fibrillation causes chaotic twitching in the heart’s main pumping chambers (ventricles). It causes rapid loss of consciousness and, in the absence of immediate treatment, sudden death.
4. Liver cirrhosis
Our liver is a recycling plant of our system that breaks down and removes toxins, drugs and chemicals from the blood. Breaking down toxin creates byproducts that can damage liver – and that what happens with alcohol, since it’s very toxic to liver cells. In most severe cases alcohol abusers develop cirrhosis that can be lethal. This condition is characterized with ulcers and scars in liver up to the point where it’s unable to function anymore. Liver cirrhosis is very hard to predict since it’s not quite understandable, what are exact conditions that trigger it. Some people who drink huge amounts never get cirrhosis, and some who don’t drink very much do get it. For some unknown reason, women seem to be especially vulnerable.
There is no way to completely avoid brain degradation that comes with age, since it’s a natural process. The normal rate is about 1,9% per 10 years. However heavy drinking speeds up this process in a most important regions of the brain which lead to the early symptoms of memory loss and dementia.
The less obvious but certainly serious changes in your brain function show itself in the poor ability to plan, solve problems, make adequate judgments, take decisions and in other aspects of social interaction and productive life. In addition to the “nonspecific” dementia that stems from brain atrophy, heavy drinking can cause nutritional deficiencies so severe that they trigger other forms of dementia.
Heavy drinking can cause epilepsy and can trigger seizures even in people who don’t have epilepsy. It can also interfere with the action of the medications used to treat convulsions.
7. High blood pressure
Alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, which, among other things, controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in response to stress, temperature, exertion, etc. Heavy drinking — and bingeing, in particular — can cause blood pressure to rise. Over time, this effect can become chronic. High blood pressure can lead to many other health problems, including kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.
8. Infectious disease
Alcohol abuse hinders our immune system, leaving us vulnerable for infections, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS and other STD. Uncontrollable drinking in many cases leads to engaging in unprotected and risky sex. Heavy drinking is associated with a three-fold increase in the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
9. Nerve damage
Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities as well as muscle weakness, incontinence, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and other problems. Alcoholic neuropathy may arise because alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, or because nutritional deficiencies attributable to heavy drinking compromise nerve function.
In addition to causing stomach irritation (gastritis), drinking can inflame the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis interferes with the digestive process, causing severe abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea – and it’s not fixable. Some cases of chronic pancreatitis are triggered by gallstones, but up to 60% stem from alcohol consumption.