While I’m sure you’re aware of some of the physical and mental consequences of alcoholism, many people are unaware of the alcohol disease risks of frequent drinking. If you feel your drinking is under control, but you indulge regularly, you may want to consider some of the reasons why your doctor asks about the frequency of your alcohol consumption.
The main risks fall into five areas, although there are other impacts from the frequent consumption of alcohol which we know less about:
- blood sugar
Alcohol Abuse Is Hard On The Heart
Frequent consumption of alcohol can lead to inflammation of the heart, known as cardiomyopathy. This prevents the heart from working as it should. Irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation) is also associated with alcohol consumption in large amounts, particularly with binge drinking. High blood pressure (hypertension) is also frequently associated with high alcohol consumption.
Liver Damage and Fatty Liver Are Alcohol Disease Risks
You’ve probably heard of cirrhosis of the liver as a consequence of alcoholism. This is a scarring of the liver, resulting in poor liver functioning, which may lead to kidney failure as your liver cannot handle its share of the body’s detoxification load. A less commonly known consequence of frequent alcohol consumption can be fatty liver, or steatosis, which can lead to steatohepatitis.
Both of these involve inflammation. Liver issues are serious, because the liver is so important in keeping your body healthy, especially if you live in a large city such as Hong Kong. Failure to keep your liver healthy can result in mental health issues and even cancer. When you visit our Integrative Medical Practice in Hong Kong, ask us about supplements that can help support your liver.
Blood Sugar And Obesity Issues
Alcohol is, essentially, concentrated carbohydrates with no nutritional value. Alcohol spikes blood sugar levels and adds lots of calories. If you’ve read some of our nutritional articles, you’ll know this is an invitation to poor health and even diabetes.
Fertility Issues In Both Genders
There are alcohol disease risks for both sexes. Of course, there’s the concern for women of passing on serious problems to a child via fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking while pregnant is very high risk. Males who consume large amounts of alcohol may experience testicular atrophy (shrinking of the testicles) and/or gynecomastia (abnormal enlargement of the breast).
The American Cancer Society states that “Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, leading to inflammation.” Unfortunately, in our bodies, alcohol is converted to a toxic, cancer-causing chemical called acetaldehyde. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol we drink – this happens with all forms.
Daily drinking can increase the risk of mouth, throat, oesophageal, breast and bowel cancers. There is no safe amount of alcohol when it comes to cancer, but less, less frequently is better.
Drinking alcohol regularly increases your risk for seven types of cancers:
- Mouth cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer (upper throat)
- Oesophageal cancer (food pipe)
- Laryngeal cancer (voice box)
- Breast cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Liver cancer
Other Alcohol Disease Risks
This isn’t a complete list of the illnesses caused or triggered by alcohol. It’s merely some of the most common. Osteopenia, which can lead to osteoporosis, is another example of a condition often associated with high alcohol consumption. What tends to happen is that as alcohol consumption goes up, quality nutrition drops, which exposes the body to a wide variety of issues. In addition, of course, accident risk of all types is greater with significant alcohol consumption.
So while a small amount of alcohol may be okay for most people at most times, be aware that alcohol disease risks rise sharply with the quantity and frequency of your consumption.