People often drink alcohol to reduce self-consciousness and inhibitions in social settings. And while the occasional alcoholic drink may not cause serious health issues, it’s important to pay attention to your alcohol consumption and how it may be affecting your health over time.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 15 million American adults have alcohol use disorder (AUD)—a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, female AUD rates more than doubled in the U.S. between 2002 to 2013.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious, even life-threatening health concerns. Consider the amount of alcohol you drink per week and the effects it could have on your physical health.
Liver. Your liver works to break down harmful substances, including alcohol, in your body. As the liver metabolizes alcohol, it produces other substances that can damage your liver and weaken your body’s natural defenses. Drinking alcohol while on certain medications can also cause muscle pain—among other serious side effects—as your liver tries to metabolize the medication and alcohol at the same time.
Heart health. Those who drink a low to moderate amount of alcohol—no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women—do not seem to have a higher risk of heart disease than those who do not drink. However, according to the American Heart Association, drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day can increase your blood pressure, triglycerides levels, stroke, and heart disease risk.
Elevated cancer risk. Alcohol can affect the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen, which can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones in the body that can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol usage can also increase your risk of developing other cancers including liver, esophagus, colon, throat, and mouth.
In addition to affecting your liver, heart, and cancer risk, alcohol use can also lead to weight gain, sleep disorders, digestive disorders, increased depression, and more. Talk to a doctor if you are concerned about your alcohol consumption.
This article first appeared in the April 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.