Gathering with friends and having a few drinks can be a memorable experience. On the other hand, drinking too much and too often can lead to problems both in the near and distant future. Knowing the effects alcohol can have on your health can help you make better decisions in the present that protect your health in the future.
Alcohol can have short- and long-term effects on your health. Short-term effects can include injuries, alcohol poisoning, and pregnancy issues. Long-term effects include high blood pressure, cancer, and a weakened immune system. Knowing what counts as a standard drink versus excessive drinking can help regulate your consumption.
The Negative Effects of Alcohol on Your Health
Unhealthy drinking can have both short-term and long-term effects on your health. From your liver to your vascular system, it can affect your entire body if not used responsibly. Knowing both the short-term and long-term risks of alcohol overconsumption can motivate you to be more mindful when you drink or choose not to drink at all.
The immediate risks of alcohol consumption pose a threat to your own safety as well as the safety of others. This includes:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Reduced risk assessment
- Pregnancy issues
Being under the influence of alcohol greatly increases the risk of injury to yourself as well as to others. This can be in the form of motor vehicle crashes while driving under the influence, which can also harm other drivers and passengers. The risk of personal injuries due to falls, burns, and even drowning are also much higher.
Some people may be more predisposed to violence when consuming alcohol. This can include various forms of violence including interpersonal violence as well as violence between intimate partners. It also poses a risk to those who may struggle with depression. Alcohol is a depressant, increasing the risk of self-harm and possibly suicide.
Alcohol poisoning, or alcohol overdose, occurs when more alcohol is consumed than the liver can process. Alcohol poisoning is much more dangerous and severe than a hangover. Since alcohol is a depressant, it also affects your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Moderation is key for avoiding an alcohol overdose.
Too much alcohol can also lead to reduced risk assessment. This can cause someone to overestimate their ability to drive or lead them to make risky sexual decisions. People who drink excessively face a much higher risk of unplanned pregnancy, as well as contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Alcohol consumption can have a major impact on unborn children. The overconsumption of alcohol while pregnant can result in fetal alcohol disorders that can cause physical, behavioral, and learning issues. It also increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth in women.
Click here to learn about the dangers of smoking and how it affects your health!
The short-term risks of alcohol consumption are dangerous enough. However, the long-term risks can have a much larger impact on your overall health. From high blood pressure to addiction, the overconsumption of alcohol can have far-reaching effects on your body and mind.
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
Consuming too much alcohol can lead to temporary high blood pressure. In this case, more than three drinks in one sitting would be considered drinking too much. However, regular binge drinking can turn this into a long-term problem. Cutting down on your drinking can help keep your blood pressure down and at safer levels.
To learn why smokers need a vascular screening, click here!
It may come as a surprise, but alcohol is a key risk factor for many forms of cancer. This includes cancer of the:
- Colon and rectum
- Throat (pharynx)
- Voice box (larynx)
In most cases, the more you drink, the more you’re at risk. On the other hand, even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer.
Click here to learn more about risk factors for breast cancer!
Heavy, chronic drinking can actually lead to a weakened immune system that increases the risk of viral and bacterial infections. Studies have shown that drinking can actually have health benefits. This includes reducing inflammation within the immune system as well as better responses to vaccinations. However, this is only in cases of light to moderate drinking.
Prolonged overconsumption of alcohol can eventually lead to disorders such as alcoholism. This form of dependence can have a far-reaching impact on your life including your family, professional life, and mental health. Finding healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety is important in order to avoid developing a dependence on alcohol.
How Much Is Too Much?
To understand what is considered excessive drinking, it helps to know what is considered a standard drink. This depends on the type of alcohol you are drinking.
What is considered a standard drink looks like this:
- Beer: 12 ounces with 5% alcohol content
- Wine: 5 ounces with 12% alcohol content
- Distilled spirits or liquor: 1.5 ounces with 40% (80-proof) alcohol content
Excessive drinking and binge drinking aren’t the same thing. Excessive drinking and binge drinking depends on your biological sex.
In this case, heavy drinking breaks down like this:
- Men: 15 or more drinks per week
- Women: 8 or more drinks per week
Binge drinking, which is the most common and most dangerous form of excessive drinking, is considered:
- Men: 5 or more drinks on a single occasion
- Women: 4 or more drinks on a single occasion
It’s also important to note that the majority of people who drink excessively are not considered alcohol-dependent. Cutting back or quitting drinking completely can help reduce your risk of dependency as well as the short- and long-term risks of alcohol.
Evansville Surgical Associates provides medical expertise from around the globe to our community. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231 to schedule your appointment!
Excessive drinking can have short- and long-term impacts on your health. Short-term effects include injuries to yourself and others as well as pregnancy issues. Long-term effects can include high blood pressure and higher cancer risks. It helps to know what’s considered a standard drink so you can avoid excessive drinking and make better decisions when you do drink.
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.