Happy hours are awesome but there’s a catch. It’s no secret that alcohol consumption can cause major health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver and injuries sustained in automobile accidents. But if you think liver disease and car crashes are the only health risks posed by drinking, think again: researchers have linked alcohol consumption to more than 60 diseases.
Below are 12 conditions linked to chronic heavy drinking:
Heavy drinking can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low. This condition, known as anaemia, can trigger a host of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and light headedness.
Habitual drinking increases the risk of cancer. Scientists believe the increased risk comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer sites linked to alcohol use include the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), oesophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal region. Cancer risk rises even higher in heavy drinkers who also use tobacco.
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 the heart-rhythm.
Alcohol is toxic to liver cells, and many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, a sometimes-lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function. But it’s hard to predict which drinkers will develop cirrhosis.
As people age, their brains shrink, on average, at a rate of about 1.9% per decade – that’s considered normal. But heavy drinking speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
Heavy drinking can also lead to subtle but potentially debilitating deficits in the ability to plan, make judgments, solve problems, and other aspects of ‘executive function,’ which are ‘the higher-order abilities that allow us to maximize our function as human beings.
It’s long been known that heavy drinking often goes hand in hand with depression, but there has been debate about which came first — the drinking or the depression. One theory is that depressed people turned to alcohol in an attempt to “self-medicate” to ease their emotional pain. But in 2010, a large study from New Zealand showed that it was probably the other way around — that is, heavy drinking led to depression.
Heavy drinking can be a cause of 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 the disorder.
A painful condition, gout is caused by the formation of uric-acid crystals in the joints. Although some cases are largely hereditary, alcohol and other dietary factors seem to play a role. Alcohol also seems to aggravate existing cases of gout.
9. 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.
10. Infectious Diseases
Heavy drinking suppresses the immune system, providing a toehold for infections, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases (including some that cause infertility). People who drink heavily also are more likely to engage in risky sex. ‘Heavy drinking is associated with a threefold increase in the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
11. Nerve Damage
Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a painful pins-and-needles feeling 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 abdominal pain and persistent diarrhoea. Some cases of chronic pancreatitis are triggered by gallstones, but up to 60% stem from alcohol consumption.
We’re not saying you should not drink but like all the good things of life, everything should be done in moderation. When you don’t overburden your liver and other organs with alcohol, you live a healthier, happier and longer life.
So before having that next glass of wine or taking that unnecessary bottle of liquor/beer ‘for the road’, think about your health.
Because if you really think about it, it’s not much fun when you’re wasted.
Also read: Are Eggs Healthy? Myths And Facts