Alcohol and Health Overview
A number of test studies have shown that those who choose to drink in moderation, rather than in excess or not at all, live the longest. Moderate drinkers are less likely to have heart attacks or strokes than people who drink heavily or completely abstain. They are also less likely to suffer from a number of common ailments such as hypertension, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and even the common cold.
There are many health benefits to sensible drinking, and alcohol has been used for medicinal purposes for as long as historical records have existed. Alcohol, when consumed in moderation, is particularly helpful in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is an important finding, as cardiovascular disease is currently the number one cause of death in the United States.
While there are many benefits to consuming alcohol in moderation over a long period of time, there are severe health risks associated with heavy drinking, even if it only occurs over a short period of time. The vital organ most directly affected by the heavy consumption of alcohol is the liver. When large amounts of alcohol are consumed, the liver is unable to process the alcohol at a fast enough rate to remain healthy, which can lead to fatty liver disease.
When the liver becomes clogged with fat cells, it is unable to work efficiently in terms of sorting the good from the bad, which can severely damage a person’s nutritional health. Fatty liver is usually the first stage of complete liver deterioration in heavy drinkers. If heavy drinking continues, cirrhosis or complete deterioration of the liver may occur. When and if this happens, it is not reversible and is often a fatal condition.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with a vast number of serious health conditions including:
- Increased risk of some types of arthritis and certain forms of cancer.
- Damage to fetuses in pregnant women.
- Elevated blood glucose levels (causes hypoglycemia).
- Enlargement of the kidneys and increased risk of kidney failure.
- Increased risk of malnutrition.
- Potential contribution to dementia, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.