Regular excessive alcohol consumption can have severely negative effects on your health. This can happen to anyone, even if they are a celebrity or a public figure.
Betty Ford, the wife of former USA President Gerald Ford, suffered from alcoholism and addiction to painkillers. She raised public awareness of addiction by confessing to her long-time battle with alcoholism in the 1970s. When she finally recovered, she established the Betty Ford Center to help others overcome substance and alcohol abuse. Perhaps Ford’s greatest legacy was the honesty she brought to the American idea of alcoholism.
She was quoted as saying ‘My makeup wasn’t smeared, I wasn’t dishevelled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?‘ In other words, there are no stereotypical symptoms of such addiction. Even being the first lady of the United States doesn’t make you immune to the awful consequences of alcohol consumption.
Key factors which make alcohol bad
While the short-term effects, such as lack of coordination, mood changes, and nausea are well known, the long-term effects on the body of prolonged and/or excessive drinking can include a lot more.
Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is a brain disorder caused by regular consumption of too much alcohol, or binge drinking over several years. Some people with ARBD only have small changes to their thinking and memory, known as mild cognitive impairment. Other people with ARBD have more serious problems with their memory and thinking. Alcohol-related ‘dementia’ or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome makes day-to-day tasks a struggle, much like someone living with dementia.
Also, excessive alcohol consumption can cause damage to neurons and synapses in the brain. Alcohol is a neurotoxin, which means that it can damage or destroy nerve cells and their connections. When alcohol is consumed, it enters the bloodstream and eventually reaches the brain. There, it affects the communication between neurons, which are the cells that transmit signals in the brain. Alcohol can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with each other.
Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can damage the structure and function of neurons and synapses – the connections between neurons. This can lead to a range of cognitive and behavioural problems, such as memory impairment, reduced concentration, and difficulties with decision-making and impulse control.
Note from Healthypedia
The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.
Despite the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for drinking alcohol, you should be aware that there is no safe dose of alcohol for the human body. Our drinking guidelines are zero ml (oz) per day, month, or year. But of course, we realize that we cannot absolutely deprive you of this illusionary pleasure. So please take care of yourself and your health, drink in moderation, listen to yourself and always know when it is best to stop.
Alcohol is the biggest cause of liver disease in the UK. Many people think that you have to be an alcoholic to develop liver disease, but this is a myth. Regular consumption of alcohol in large doses increases the risk of developing liver disease and liver cancer.
Worldwide, liver cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer-related death in men and the sixth-highest cause of cancer-related death in women. The incidence of liver cancer is increasing by approximately 3%–4% per year.
Alcohol affects the liver so badly because the liver is responsible for processing it. This produces harmful chemicals that can damage and kill liver cells. Although the liver is very good at repairing itself, it can’t keep up with the damage from regularly drinking too much alcohol. This can cause scarring which builds up and leads to cirrhosis.
The risk is higher for people who have another type of liver condition. And for people with a body mass index in the overweight or obese range. Other factors such as genetics and family history can also play a role in whether someone will develop a serious form of alcohol-related liver disease.
Alcohol abuse is associated with a number of bad health outcomes, including heart disease. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. It can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart muscle, which causes dysfunction of the heart and prevents it from supplying blood to the body.
In one study, a team of scientists examined the prevalence of prehypertension in both men and women when systolic and diastolic blood pressures ranged from 120 to 139 mmHg / 80 to 89 mmHg. They found that at this range, 52% of male drinkers and 29% of female drinkers had prehypertension.
4May cause birth defects
Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is the leading cause of birth defects.
Binge drinking in early pregnancy is detrimental to a developing baby. In fact, alcohol can have adverse effects on development, growth, intelligence, and behaviour, which can affect children throughout their lives.
5Leads to a vitamin deficiency
Alcohol consumption can lead to a deficiency in vitamin B1 because it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and use the nutrient. We already mentioned a brain-damaging Warnicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is also caused by heavy drinking resulting in vitamin B1 deficiency. Symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency can include confusion, memory loss, and difficulty walking.
People with alcohol addiction are also much less likely to have a balanced diet. This means that over months and years, they have an increased risk of malnutrition, including deficiencies in vitamins such as vitamin B1.
6Increasing risk of physical injury
If a person drinks too much alcohol on a regular basis, they also have an increased risk of injury. Under the influence of alcohol, they may fall and hit their head or another part of their body. This in turn can lead to permanent trauma to the body and sometimes life-threatening injuries.
7Inevitable hangover from overdosing
The severity of a hangover can vary depending on a number of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the type of alcohol, the individual’s tolerance, and the amount of time spent drinking. Some common symptoms of a hangover include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and muscle aches.
As we get older, our bodies become less efficient at metabolising alcohol, which means it stays in our system for longer periods of time. This can increase the severity of hangover symptoms, as well as the length of time it takes for the body to recover.
In addition, as we age, our bodies lose some of their ability to absorb and retain water, which can lead to increased dehydration and more severe hangover symptoms. Older adults may also be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol due to changes in liver function and other age-related changes in the body.
8Costly way to challenge your health
Alcoholic beverages are made through a fermentation process which requires time spent in vats plus ageing. Older whiskies and cognacs are more expensive because they take years to make, and champagne requires fermentation in bottles, ageing, etc. Also, most governments charge fees plus sales tax. If they have a sliding scale for sales tax it will be at the top rate.
So before you waste your money on alcohol, think twice about whether it is worth putting your health and finances at stake.
What may be good about alcohol
There might not be many, but let’s look at the positive effects of alcohol.
An antioxidant effect
Alcohol also contains useful things that can provide some health benefits. Specifically, red wine contains a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are primarily found in the skin and seeds of grapes. Other polyphenols found in red wine, such as quercetin and catechins, also have antioxidant properties and may help to protect the body against damage from free radicals.
How much you pay for imaginary pleasure
Alcohol accompanies almost every adult in life. It can be hard to refuse, especially in the company of friends, at family dinners or on holidays. We allow ourselves to drink it, sometimes in unlimited quantities. But what matters is your health. After all, that’s what you have to pay for if you consume it in unlimited quantities.
A study published in November 2022 found that between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol consumption caused about 140,000 deaths a year in the United States. About 40% of these deaths were due to acute causes, such as car accidents, poisonings, and homicides. But most were caused by chronic alcohol-related illnesses, such as liver disease, cancer and heart disease.
Enjoyable alternative drinks to alcohol
What people are looking for are alternatives to their traditional alcoholic drinks that keep them engaged, taste good and feel like they are holding something that doesn’t put them out of place in a bar or at a party.
Here are some ideas if you consider yourself someone who occasionally finds yourself in a social situation where you want to know what to drink instead of alcohol, but you also don’t want to be stuck with a soft drink in your hand when friends and colleagues ask ‘what’s wrong?’ or ‘are you driving today?’
1. Kombucha. This fermented and naturally lightly sparkling drink is made from black or green tea and a sprinkling of bacteria. It has forged a growing cult status amongst consumers looking for something that tastes ‘grown-up’ but that is also healthy.
2. Sparkling juices. Sparkling juices are made using the same fermentation process as sparkling wine so make a great alternative to Prosecco or champagne because they have the same bubbles.
3. Mocktails. A mocktail can best be described as a cocktail without the liquor incorporating juices or sodas, infused waters and various other non-alcoholic ingredients to provide a range of flavours.
4. Matcha tea. Matcha can be found in coffee shops and cafes everywhere nowadays. Matcha is a type of green tea, made from the plant Camellia sinensis. But it’s grown slightly differently from regular green tea. It’s exposed to more sunlight, which means it has a higher chlorophyll and amino acid content. Instead of a whiskey on the rocks, brew a lovely cup of matcha tea.
5. Kanna. Kanna is a perfect alcohol replacement. It’s known for creating a feeling of lightness similar to having a massage or deep meditation session. But what is Kanna? It’s a native plant of South Africa, used for centuries to relieve tension, boost mood, and foster a sense of tranquillity. It can even be an alcohol alternative for anxiety. Kanna is commonly brought in powder form so that it can be brewed into tea. You can find Kanna tea bags in most health stores. Some people add honey to sweeten the earthy taste.
Hopefully, these healthy alternatives to alcohol have inspired you. You can experiment with different flavour combinations, so whatever your tastes there is something for everyone!
Let’s sum up
Alcohol and its increased consumption cause brain damage and liver badly affect your heart, provoke defects in the development of your child while still in the womb, cause a hangover and push you to take rash actions. You can injure yourself and others or even die under its influence. There is no harmless amount of alcohol. Always remember this and try avoiding it or turn to healthy alternatives.
Hungry for knowledge? Here you go!
Dr. Sam Robbins is an anti-ageing and hormone specialist, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, writer, speaker, leading health entrepreneur and philanthropist. In this video, he says why alcohol is killing you.
Jordan Peterson a Canadian psychologist, author, and media commentator will tell you about alcohol and why you should not be drinking it.
Dr Andrew Huberman is a tenured professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine and host of the Huberman Lab Podcast on YouTube. In his video, he discusses the impact of alcohol on the brain.
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