Health problems associated with drinking alcohol
Alcohol is sold all over the UK. In fact, around 90% of adults claim to drink alcohol – it’s accountable for approximately 1 in 16 hospital admissions, whilst misuse of the substance is responsible for over 20,000 premature deaths every year. Binge drinking is more likely to cause harm, and when a person continually exceeds 3 drinks per day, this risk dramatically increases.
When people think about the risks of drinking alcohol, most immediately think of accidents caused by intoxication and the inability to think clearly (such as falls, drink driving, fights, or reckless promiscuity). However, this is only one of the things people should be worrying about. In many cases, the long term risks of consuming too much alcohol are much more serious:
Liver disease is very common amongst those who regularly consume larger volumes of alcohol than the liver can process, as it has the ability to damage, or even destroy the liver cells. The three main types of liver disease caused by an excessive amount of alcohol include:
– Fatty liver disease (earliest stage): Build up of extra fat in liver cells.
Symptoms: This often has no symptoms, especially when it is only a mild case. However, if symptoms are present, they usually include: tiredness, loss of appetite, or pain and discomfort around the right side of your body where the liver is. It can be officially diagnosed via ultrasound or a liver biopsy.
– Alcoholic hepatitis: Liver swells and becomes damaged.
Symptoms: Jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. If it is a very severe case, it has the possibility of leading onto more serious complications such as liver failure, and possibly even death in very severe cases.
– Cirrhosis of the liver (final stage): Scarring of the liver.
Symptoms: Jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Between 10% and 20% of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, and once the damage to the liver has been done, it cannot be reversed.
Alcohol can also have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, and has been found to be associated with the following diseases:
– Congestive Heart Failure
Regular consumption of large volumes of alcohol can lead to enlargement of the heart, making it unable to pump as effectively as it should. It is not curable, and may require a pacemaker or even a heart transplant.
– Cardiomyopathy (heart disease)
– Hypertension (high blood pressure)
It is estimated that the risk of hypertension for those drinking over 3 units of alcohol per day is up to 50% higher than for those who do not drink alcohol, and between 11% and 30% of all hypertension may be related to heavy alcohol consumption.
– Cardiac Arrhythmia (disturbances in heart rhythm)
Binge drinking over a long period of time can cause otherwise healthy people to experience an irregular rhythm of the heart, thus increasing the risk of a heart attack and possibly even sudden death.
– Cerebrovascular Haemorrhage (stroke)
This is the most common form of fatal stroke for those under the age of 65, and regular alcohol consumption can greatly increase the risk of this.
These are the main problems associated with alcohol in the UK. However, it doesn’t stop there! An excess of alcohol has also been found to have negative effects on other parts of the body including the:
– Gastrointestinal tract
– Nervous system
It can also cause a series of other health problems, such as:
However, if you think that alcohol consumption only causes physical health problems, you are sorely mistaken. Alcohol itself is a depressant, and is also responsible for a series of psychiatric problems, such as suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, as well as alcohol dependence syndrome.
It is also responsible for causing social problems, such as impaired performance at work and relationship problems, and even more serious things such as violent crimes and anti-social behaviour.
Of course a glass of red wine now and then won’t do much harm, but before you’re considering going out drinking for the fourth night in a row, just think about it…is it really worth it?