Drinking alcoholic beverages has been glamorized in American culture, and nowadays alcohol is practically everywhere you look. Whether you’re checking out at the grocery store and see a new brand of liquor, watching television advertisements for alcoholic beverages, or driving down the Interstate to see a billboard with an attractive couple laughing – with a beer advertisement plastered underneath their photo. Of course there is the “please drink responsibly” stapled to every advertisement.
So what does it mean to drink responsibly? Don’t hurt yourself, don’t break the law, and don’t hurt anyone else. Either way, whether or not a person is of legal age for consumption of alcohol, when it becomes available, the message is in plain English on the bottle–Government Warning: Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems. The truth is, drinking alcohol does cause health problems.
Health Consequences Of Alcohol Abuse
Though the health warnings are right there, people still excitedly wait for Friday, five o’clock, the big game, the wedding, the sun to go down, or in some cases, the sun to come up…to drink alcohol. When a person starts drinking, they aren’t always thinking about potential hospital visits, further excessive drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms, or worse, the possibility of doing serious damage to vital organs such as the heart. The truth is that heart disease caused by alcohol, or alcoholic cardiomyopathy, can be a direct result of prolonged heavy drinking. Some people just don’t know when to stop, or they can’t.
Alcohol Abuse And The Organs
Excessive use of alcohol can also contribute to health related issues, such as cirrhosis of the liver, mouth cancer, alcohol dependence, and oftentimes injuries. (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) A person who is addicted to alcohol may not be able to comprehend the adverse health effects it has on them, because what their brain wants is more of the addictive substance, so that’s what they give it. The brain tells them what they want to hear. For example, when we feel the need to eat, it’s because our stomach is sending messages to the brain about lack of nutrition. Each body part works through communication with the brain, then the brain sends and receives information. What about the heart?
Alcohol Abuse And The Heart
The heart doesn’t crave substances, but is still among the most vital organs–it is essentially wired to rotate the blood in our nerves. When a substance like alcohol is added to the blood, it thins it, and then the blood continues on to the heart. This can sometimes be beneficial for blood clotting with limited or moderate drinking, but is not the case for irregular heavy drinking. In a study by Oxford’s American Journal of Epidemiology, irregular heavy drinking, or consuming 5 drinks per day, is directly related to ischemic heart disease and death. Ischemic heart disease occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the heart and parts of the heart muscle can die.
“Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is characterized by left ventricular dilation, increased left ventricular mass, and reduced or normal left ventricular wall thickness.” (National Institutes of Health) Cardiomyopathy basically means that parts of the heart enlarged, or thick and it is no longer able to pump blood effectively.Although evidence of Alcohol Cardiomyopathy related deaths is scarce, alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM) was found in 2 out of 6 men who consumed 80 grams or more – or 8 standard drinks – of alcohol per day. Studies show patients who die of alcoholic cardiomyopathy, “the cause of death in patients with alcoholic cardiomyopathy are similar to those who die from idiopathic cardiomyopathy; progressive chronic heart failure and sudden cardiac death.” Einstein Institute for Heart and Vascular Health
Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy Reversal And Treatment
Alcohol cardiomyopathy can be reversed only by cutting back or completely eliminating alcohol consumption. This can be problematic for heavy drinkers, because if an addiction has been formed, he or she is likely to have trouble stopping on their own. Reversal is possible nonetheless, and people can get better with the proper treatment. To paraphrase from a study by the Einstein Institute for Heart and Vascular Health, improvement in cardiac output in patients who abstained or drastically decreased their intake of alcohol. A small study of 11 patients reported significant improvements in cardiac output of patients who abstained from alcohol when coupled with medical therapy. In other words, with the reduction in alcohol intake, the function of the heart muscle in pumping blood improves. In essence, quitting along along with medical therapy can be critical for treating health problems due to alcohol abuse and avoiding heart damage..
More Health Risks Due To Alcohol Abuse
The health risks directly linked to alcohol abuse can be internal or external, mental and/or physical. Alcohol Abuse can play as an immediate factor to serious health risks. Below are some of the short term consequences of excessive alcohol consumption:
- Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
- Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
- Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.
- Excessive alcohol abuse is also directly related to long term risks which are listed below:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
- Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.
Center For Disease Control and Prevention
Alcohol Abuse And You
Everybody wants to live a long, healthy, and prosperous life, surely you are no different! There is no shame in not knowing all of the answers. We all encounter problems that we can’t answer along the way, and health risks that we don’t understand. If you are concerned about alcohol abuse and have questions about treatment, visit us at Alcoholtreatment.net or call to privately speak to a professional – 800-247-9938
Center for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
Einstein Institute for Heart and Vascular Health (EIHVH) -Thomas Jefferson University – https://jdc.jefferson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=cardiologyfp
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
Oxford Academic: American Journal of Epidemiology – https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/171/6/633/113712/Irregular-Heavy-Drinking-Occasions-and-Risk-of
US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2365733/