Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

10 head-to-toe effects of alcohol

  • Updated

Alcohol affects every organ in the body and drinking too much of it, either on a single occasion or over a period of time, can cause head-to-toe health problems. To avoid these 10 effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the body and promote long-term health and wellness, drink in moderation, if at all, and stick to the guidelines set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Up to two drinks a day for men of legal drinking age and up to one drink a day for non-pregnant women of legal drinking age.

Brain: Alcohol is known as a depressant, meaning it slows down the brain’s communication pathways. This disruption can change mood and behavior, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. Alcohol abuse can also lead to learning and memory problems, as well as depression and anxiety.

Heart: Some research shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may prevent coronary heart disease in healthy adults. However, heavy drinking, especially binge drinking, is a known cause of cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscles), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), stroke and high blood pressure.

Liver: The liver metabolizes, or breaks down, alcohol and other harmful substances. Those who drink heavily for a long time can develop diseases, such as liver inflammation or severe liver scarring. In fact, more than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease.

Pancreas: Pancreatitis, caused when the blood vessels in the pancreas become inflamed, can be a side effect of drinking regularly. Pancreatitis may also trigger the onset of Type 2 diabetes in those that consume high levels of alcohol.

Cancer: Habitual alcohol consumption is linked to increased risk for developing certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast. Though the exact reason is unknown, for each of these cancers the risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Immune system: Chronic alcohol use reduces the ability of white blood cells to effectively fight off harmful bacteria, disrupts production of cytokines and suppresses the development of T-Cells – all of which make the body more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Bones: Alcohol acts as a diuretic, flushing calcium from healthy bones. Heavy drinking can accelerate the rate of bone deterioration and increase the risk for bone fracture and osteoporosis.

Central nervous system: Slurred speech, blurred vision, decreased reaction time and impaired memory are all short-term effects of alcohol on the central nervous system. When alcohol is consumed heavily over time, it can cause permanent cell damage in the form of neuropathy. Neuropathy alternates feelings of weakness, burning, pain and numbness of the hands and feet.

Weight: Not only does alcohol contain empty calories with no nutritional value, it can impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins from food. By slowing down metabolic function, heavy alcohol consumption can contribute to weight gain.

Stomach: The short-term effects of alcohol on your stomach include sickness, nausea and diarrhea. In the long-term, however, alcohol irritates and inflames the stomach lining, which can lead to stomach ulcers and bleeding. Severe tearing in the stomach may also lead to anemia.

From increased risk for chronic disease to altered mood and behavior, drinking alcohol affects total body health and wellness. If you have concerns about you or a loved one’s drinking behaviors, contact UnityPoint Health–Trinity Muscatine New Horizons at 563-264-9409.

Paula Levasseur is director of UnityPoint Health–Trinity Muscatine New Horizons. New Horizons is a substance abuse counseling service located on the hospital campus.

0
0
0
0
0

Build your health & fitness knowledge

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Former President Donald Trump’s winning streak in U.S. Senate primaries is on the line Tuesday as voters in five states cast their ballots in midterm elections. Trump backed celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina in those states’ Republican primaries for U.S. Senate. On the Democratic side, Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman revealed Sunday he had suffered a stroke but said he was on the way to a “full recovery.” In other races, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho hold primaries for governor Tuesday. In North Carolina, Congressman Madison Cawthorn is trying to survive a Republican primary after a turbulent first term in office.

David Roth has won Idaho’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Roth has served as head of the Bonneville County Democrats and ran for the state Legislature in 2020. Roth will be a heavy underdog against four-term Republican Sen. Mike Crapo in November’s general election. The last time Democrats won a U.S. Senate election in Idaho was 1974. The top issues Roth listed during his campaign were substance use reduction through evidence-based programs; funding for education, including early childhood and after-school programs; health care affordability; and immigration reform.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has won the GOP gubernatorial primary, beating a Trump-backed challenger. Tuesday's intraparty contest between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was an example of the choice GOP voters face nationwide between established candidates and insurgents endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Little and McGeachin frequently feuded over coronavirus precautions and the role of government. Last year, McGeachin twice attempted a power grab when Little was out of state on business. Republicans are almost guaranteed of winning in the general election as Democrats haven’t held the governor’s office since 1995 or statewide office since 2007.

Kentucky voters have set up a November matchup between Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Democrat Charles Booker. Each won his party’s Senate nomination in Tuesday's primary. Paul is seeking a third Senate term. The fall campaign will feature contrasting agendas. Paul supports limited government while Booker backs sweeping health care and anti-poverty programs. The Bluegrass State hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992. The libertarian-leaning Paul coasted to victory over five Republican challengers in his pursuit of another term. Booker defeated three opponents in the Democratic primary.

The leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would throw out the court’s Roe v. Wade ruling has sent people into the streets around the nation. Around 1,000 people gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Washington Tuesday. One demonstrator carried a sign declaring, “If men could get pregnant, abortions would be available at every ATM.” At a rally in Manhattan, New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced that she had an abortion nearly two decades ago. Smaller protests were held in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles and San Francisco in California and elsewhere.

COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States – and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Officials said Wednesday those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors  — but Americans elsewhere should also take notice.

Ten of millions of people in the United States opted for mail ballots during the pandemic election of 2020. This year, voters in the early primary states are returning in droves to in-person voting. In Georgia, about 85,000 voters have requested mail ballots for the May 24 primary. That's a dramatic decrease from the nearly 1 million who cast mail ballots in the state’s 2020 primary at the height of the pandemic. Early in-person voting in the state is shattering records. The trend away from mailed ballots is seen in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, which also have held early primaries. 

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News