How Alcohol Affects the Mind and Body
With April being Alcohol Awareness Month, we wanted to shed some light on how alcohol affects the mind and body. Some of the ways alcohol impacts our health are well known but there also some surprising effects that many people don’t know about.
Millions of Americans enjoy having a drink from time to time, especially when socializing with others. Although there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, it is definitely better to consume alcohol occasionally and in small amounts. Drinking daily or binge drinking can quickly lead to damaged health in both the short term and long term.
Some short-term risks of drinking include hangovers, alcohol poisoning, and a higher risk of falling, getting into conflicts, or participating in risky behavior. Long-term risks are much more serious and are linked to over 200 different kinds of diseases.
Alcohol impacts our minds and bodies in several ways. It has immediate effects on our body and can also impact our mental and physical health for years to come.
How much harm we absorb from alcohol depends on different factors such as how much, how often, and even the kind of alcohol we drink. Additionally, our individual physiques, genetics, overall health, and other factors also come into play and react with alcohol that enters our bodies.
Brain Function Impairment
Too much alcohol consumption can cause significant damage to a person’s brain. In the short term, alcohol can cause slurred speech, wobbly steps, reduced memory, and slowed reflexes.
It can even cause blackouts where a person can’t remember what happened during a period of time. With changes in brain chemistry, a person can also go through many different moods, some of which can be aggressive, angry, or depressive.
In the long term, chronic drinking can actually damage parts of the brain responsible for memory, balance, and emotions. Alcohol also damages the ends of neurons and makes it harder for them to send important signals. Alcohol-related brain damage is also known for raising the risk of developing strokes, head injuries, and accidents.
Alcohol and the Heart
Did you know that too much alcohol can make the heart weaker and cause an irregular beat pattern? In fact, chronic heavy drinking is one of the top causes of cardiovascular disease and can also lead to high blood pressure.
Liver & Metabolism Function
Your body doesn’t know how to store alcohol so it jumps to the front of the line for processing once it’s in your system. It needs to be metabolized immediately and takes precedence over everything else including proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This has a big effect on the liver, which is responsible for detoxifying and eliminating alcohol from the bloodstream.
Over time, the liver will suffer from too much alcohol consumption and be at risk for chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. Scarring from this inflammation is called cirrhosis and can ultimately wreak havoc on the liver, making it harder to detoxify the body.
Weaker Immune Function
Daily drinkers are at a higher risk of falling sick than people who don’t drink much or often. This is because alcohol damages the body’s immune system and makes it much more vulnerable when confronted with infections such as the common cold, flu, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Alcohol can also trigger inflammation in the gut and kill important microorganisms in the intestines that maintain our immune system’s health.
As you can see, drinking too much alcohol can cause all kinds of damage to the mind and body. Among other things, it can cause inflammation, weaken your immune system, damage the brain, and increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
To reduce your risk, keep your drinking moderate and infrequent in both the short and long term. If you’re struggling to stop drinking, make sure to reach out for help and support. Quitting can be easier with the right environment and people in your corner.
If you’re not sure how to cut down your alcohol consumption, reach out to our team here at Montes Medical Group. Our providers and staff can help you get started as you head towards a healthier lifestyle. Give us a call to schedule an appointment and find support as you embark on this journey.