Do you really know what alcohol really does to your body? Alcohol causes a lot more than just a hangover and poor decision making. Alcohol and your Body Drinking too much alcohol can cause you to pass out, get a DUI, and have a throbbing headache the next morning; but, drinking just a little bit can lead to an increased heartbeat and a bit of a “buzz”. Alcohol has major effects on the brain, nervous system, heart, liver, and the rest of the body. In 2013, 86.8 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; and, one in three suicides involves heavy alcohol misuse.
Alcohol and Your Brain When under the influence of alcohol you might experience difficulty walking, slurred speech, blurred vision, slower reaction times, and impaired memory. Blackouts are common to social drinkers and should be viewed as a potential consequence of acute intoxication when the drinker is clinically dependent on alcohol. 80 percent of alcoholics have a deficiency in thiamine and will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. A short–lived and severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis. Alcohol affects the brain in different ways. Alcohol depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, making the person less inhibited by slowing down the processing of information from the eyes, ears, mouth and other senses, making it difficult to think clearly. Alcohol also affects the center of movement and balance, resulting in a off-balance staggering or swagger that we associate with the so-called “falling-down drunk.” Alcohol depresses nerve centers in the hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. This decreases sexual performance while increasing sexual urge. Alcohol also slows breathing and lowers body temperature which induces sleepiness while increasing the release of dopamine in your brain’s “reward center.” However, over time, the dopamine effect diminishes until it’s almost nonexistent. But at this time, the drinker is enjoys just the feeling of the dopamine release, even though they’re no longer getting it.
Alcohol and Your Heart Drinking a lot damages the heart and causes problems such as the stretching and drooping of the heart muscle, an irregular heart beat, a stroke and high blood pressure. Alcohol and Your Liver Alcohol can cause liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. This is attributed to the metabolism of alcohol and is caused by the inflammation induced by the direct toxicity of metabolic by-products. Exposure of liver cells to bacterial toxins may contribute to liver disease. Escalating liver injury can lead to fibrosis and, ultimately, to cirrhosis.
There are three Main Types of Alcohol-related Liver Disease: 1) Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is caused by the deposition of fat in liver cells. This is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. There are usually no symptoms except for fatigue, weakness, and discomfort in the right upper abdomen. Liver enzymes may be elevated, however tests of liver function are often normal. Many heavy drinkers have fatty liver disease. Alcoholic fatty liver disease may be reversible with abstinence of alcohol. 2) Alcoholic Hepatitis is fat deposition in liver cells, inflammation and mild scarring of the liver. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice. Liver enzymes are elevated and tests of liver function may be abnormal. Around 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis and 55% already have cirrhosis. Alcoholic hepatitis can be mild or severe. Mild alcoholic hepatitis may be reversed with abstinence. Severe alcoholic hepatitis may occur suddenly and lead to serious complications including liver failure and death. 3) Alcoholic Cirrhosis is the most advanced type of alcohol induced liver injury and is characterized by severe scarring and disruption of the normal structure of the liver — hard scar tissue replaces soft healthy tissue. Between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis. Symptoms of cirrhosis may be similar to those of severe alcoholic hepatitis. Cirrhosis is the most advanced type of alcohol-related liver disease and is not reversed with abstinence. Abstinence may improve the symptoms and signs of liver disease and prevent further damage. Alcohol and Your Immune System Drinking too much weakens your immune system and makes your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections for up to 24 hours after your last drink. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers of the Mouth, Esophagus, Throat, Liver and Breast
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