Drinking alcohol can be a risky activity and harmful to your health. In this post, we look at the long-term effects of alcohol misuse on the body.
Drinking Can Cause High Blood Pressure and Increase the Risk of Stroke
The blood that pumps around your body puts pressure on the walls of your arteries. When we say someone has “high blood pressure”, it means that their blood is pressing hard against their arterial walls. When blood pressure is high, the heart must pump harder to push blood around the body, putting the heart under strain.
As few as three drinks in a single sitting is enough to raise your blood pressure. People who drink frequently get hypertension, which is another word for abnormally high blood pressure.
The excess strain of high blood pressure can cause you to have a heart attack. High blood pressure can also lead to a stroke, when the walls of your arteries are damaged to the point that they break. Having a stroke can also block your arterial walls, which prevents blood from getting to the brain and starves your brain of vital nutrients and oxygen.
Drinking Can Cause Pancreatitis and Liver Diseases
The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach. The pancreas helps us digest food and creates hormones including insulin. While scientists aren’t exactly sure how it happens, drinking alcohol can cause irreversible damage to the pancreas. When you get pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes swollen, which can cause pain.
Drinking can also damage the liver. The liver is a vital organ; we need it to stay alive. One of the liver’s functions is to remove toxins from the blood — including the toxins found in alcohol. Normally, the liver is able to regenerate over time. However, drinking too much alcohol reduces its ability to regenerate. The liver can even be scarred by alcohol, a condition known as Cirrhosis.
Drinking Can Increase the Risk of Cancer
We now know that drinking alcohol causes seven types of cancer:
- Liver cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Throat cancer
- Cancer of the larynx
- Cancer of the oesophagus
- Breast cancer
- Bowel cancer
Cancer Research UK has discovered a link between cancer and alcohol. When alcohol enters the body, it turns into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages our DNA, limiting our cells’ ability to repair themselves correctly.
Drinking Can Cause Sexual Problems: Impotence, Infertility and Premature Ejaculation
It’s well known that drinking can lead to liver disease and cancer, but people are less open to talking about the damage that drinking can do to your sexual health.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause men to become impotent, where they cannot get an erection. To get an erection, blood must flow to the penis. Crucially, it also needs to stay there, which requires the blood vessels to close. Alcohol messes up this second step, meaning the blood can’t stay where it’s needed and the penis can’t get hard.
For both men and women, alcohol can damage fertility. For men, alcohol consumption lowers the quality and quantity of both sperm and testosterone. For women, the link between drinking and fertility is unclear, although the statistics are not: light drinkers are less fertile than women who don’t drink, while moderate drinkers are much less likely to be able to have a baby.
To find out more about the risks of drinking or to get support in your efforts to quit, call Charterhouse Clinic on 0808 123 0222