How Many Health Conditions Does Alcohol Contribute To?
Are you curious about how many health conditions alcohol really contributes to? Or what happens when someone drinks frequently and excessively over the years? If so, you’re not alone.
In this blog, we take a closer look at alcohol, a common feature in many of our lives, and its true effects on our health.
How Many Health Conditions Does Alcohol Contribute To?
Alcohol contributes to a wide range of health conditions. The specific number can vary depending on the criteria used for linking health conditions to alcohol consumption.
Understanding these impacts is incredibly important, as they can be both subtle and profound, affecting individuals differently based on factors. This can include the amount and frequency of alcohol intake, age, sex, genetics, and overall health status.
Common Short-term Conditions Associated with Alcohol Misuse
Alcohol misuse, even in the short term, can lead to a variety of health issues and conditions. These range from mild effects, such as hangovers, to more severe consequences, including acute alcohol poisoning.
See below for an overview of the most commonly known short-term conditions that are associated with alcohol consumption.
– Short-term alcohol misuse often leads to acute intoxication, characterised by slurred speech, impaired coordination, and slowed reflexes. This condition affects cognitive functions and decision-making, increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, and engaging in risky behaviours.
– A serious and potentially life-threatening condition, alcohol poisoning occurs when a person consumes a large amount of alcohol in a short period. Symptoms include vomiting, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and seizures. It requires immediate medical attention.
– Even short-term misuse has the potential to trigger mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Alcohol alters brain chemistry, impacting mood and behaviour.
– Alcohol irritates the digestive system. Short-term effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and indigestion. These symptoms result from alcohol’s impact on the stomach lining and gut motility.
– Short-term misuse or binge drinking can lead to irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and, in rare cases, sudden cardiac arrest. This is especially true in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.
– Even a single episode of heavy drinking can temporarily weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections.
Common Long-term Health Conditions Associated with Alcohol Misuse
As well as the short-term conditions associated with alcohol, prolonged misuse can also lead to numerous chronic health conditions, affecting various body systems. These conditions often develop over years of heavy drinking.
The long-term conditions associated with alcohol misuse are diverse and serious, affecting nearly every organ system in the body. We’ve provided an overview of some of the most common long-term health conditions associated with alcohol below.
Liver disease is a broad category of conditions that affect the liver, which is an essential organ in the human body. The liver is responsible for numerous critical functions, including detoxification of harmful substances, production of bile to aid in digestion, and synthesis of important proteins for blood clotting. Liver diseases can, of course, disrupt these vital processes.
The symptoms of liver disease are often related to the organ’s impaired ability to function properly. They can range from mild to severe and might include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, and abdominal pain.
Additionally, the progression of liver diseases also varies. Some may remain stable for years, while others can lead to rapid deterioration in health. Chronic alcohol use is a leading cause of liver diseases, with 47.4% of deaths associated with liver disease involving alcohol. Conditions can include fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders involving the heart and blood vessels. They are primarily characterised by conditions affecting the heart’s ability to function efficiently, impacting the flow of blood throughout the body. For those who drink alcohol to an excessive level, this alone can contribute to the development of CVDs.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a variety of heart-related issues, as it can affect heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions. Long-term misuse can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and an increased risk of stroke. It can also cause cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle weakens.
Heavy alcohol intake can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. In fact, 4% of worldwide diagnoses can be linked to alcohol.
Alcohol is a known carcinogen. Prolonged misuse has been linked with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer.
Pancreatitis can be defined as when the pancreas becomes inflamed, an organ involved in digestion and blood sugar regulation. Alcohol use, especially chronic and heavy drinking, is a significant risk factor for the development of pancreatitis.
Mental Health Conditions
Chronic heavy drinking has a complex yet consistent relationship with mental health. It can worsen existing mental health issues and also contribute to the development of new psychiatric conditions or be used as a coping mechanism for mental health problems.
The effects of alcohol on the brain can lead to mood disorders, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. It can also lead to alcohol-induced psychotic episodes.
Alcohol affects the nervous system and can lead to various neurological complications. These might include issues with coordination, memory, and cognitive function. Chronic alcohol use can result in long-term damage to the brain and nervous system, impacting both motor skills and mental faculties.
So, in the context of chronic alcoholism, neurological conditions can include (but are not limited to) peripheral neuropathy, cognitive impairments, and brain damage. Conditions such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcohol-related dementia are also directly related to long-term alcohol abuse.
Reproductive Health Problems
In both men and women, frequent and excessive alcohol use can lead to reproductive health issues, including hormonal imbalances, erectile dysfunction, and menstrual irregularities. Additionally, in pregnant women, alcohol use can lead to serious developmental problems in the foetus, known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Find Help for Alcohol Addiction Today
If you’re feeling concerned about any of the conditions mentioned in this article and are worried about your own long-term health risks, remember that it’s not too late to prevent developing conditions as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.