NZ Woman's Weekly
Drinking alcohol safely

Drinking alcohol safely

Your liver is not the only part of your body that can suffer if you overindulge on booze. Too much alcohol can have all sorts of repercussions.

Did you know: Alcohol consumption has been identified as an important risk factor for more than 60 different disorders – according to the World Health Organisation. In New Zealand, estimates indicate between 600 and 1000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes.

Cancer risks
People who drink alcohol habitually have an increased risk of several types of cancer. It’s thought this is because our bodies convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance. It’s linked with cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, throat, larynx, liver and breast. Colorectal cancer may also be associated with heavy drinking.

Cardio concerns
When you knock back too much booze – particularly if you’re prone to a binge – the platelets in your blood are more likely to clump together and form clots. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A Harvard University study found that binge drinking doubles the risk of death among people who have initially survived a heart attack. Heavy drinking can result in cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscles weaken and eventually fail. It can also play a part in conditions that cause abnormalities in heart rhythms, such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation.

High blood pressure
Alcohol can affect how the sympathetic nervous system works. This controls the way blood vessels constrict and dilate in response to factors such as stress and exertion. Drinking to excess – and bingeing in particular – can cause blood pressure to rise, and over time, stay elevated. This can lead to heart and kidney disease, and stroke.

Cirrhosis
An unpleasant condition in which the liver becomes so heavily scarred it can’t function properly. This is because alcohol is poison to liver cells. Not all heavy drinkers get cirrhosis,but women seem prone to it.

Anaemia
Overdoing alcohol can cause a drop in the number of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, and you can become anaemic as a result. Symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, shortness of breath and feeling light-headed.

Dementia
Our brains naturally shrink as we get older and heavy drinking can speed up that process. Excess alcohol can affect our ability to use our brains to do things such as planning, making judgements and solving problems. It can also lead to severe nutritional deficiencies than can result in brain atrophy. This can cause dementia-like issues.

Depression
The relationship between drink and depression is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. While it’s not unusual for depressed people to use alcohol as a way of dealing with their problems, scientists now suspect drinking can actually lead to depression. Research has shown that heavy drinkers who cut back on alcohol notice that their symptoms ease.

Seizures
Chronic drinking may trigger seizures in people who don’t even have epilepsy. It can also disrupt the way anticonvulsion medications work on the body.

One Response to “Drinking alcohol safely”

  1. pussycat Jun 27 2013, 11:26am

    Great to see someone writing to women about the health effects of drinking alcohol. I see so many documentaries on NZ television about behaviour problems when young people drink too much, go out binge drinking in the weekends etc, but never anything about the risks to your health. Women especially need to know that their bodies cannot handle alcohol as well as a man’s can. I know all about this….I nearly died from liver failure. I am so lucky to be alive and it was an incredibly scary time in my life going through that. Women need to know how bad drinking too much can be for you. Please write more articles on this topic Donna.

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