Man drinking alcohol

How Alcohol Affects Your Body Long-Term

Drinking alcohol to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic increased by 46% in the months after it began. But even moderate consumption during less stressful times can lead to long-term health risks. We want to help you make well informed health decisions while coping with stress of any kind.

Impact on Weight

In addition to being composed mainly of “empty,” non-nutritional calories, alcohol interferes with metabolic function. This means that even moderate alcohol drinking can lead to weight gain. “Research shows that as few as two standard alcoholic drinks can slow down your body’s fat-burning process by a whopping 73%,” according to Women’s Health. This may lead to weight gain, and can also make it difficult to lose weight you’ve already gained.

Effects on Brain Function

Your brain may physically shrink as a result of too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking causes brain cells to change and even reduce in size. University of Oxford researchers, for example, found measurable shrinkage in the brain’s hippocampus (which is associated with memory and reasoning), based on how much alcohol participants drank.

Extensive alcohol use is also associated with short-term and long-term memory issues, such as dementia, and may cause irreversible damage to cognitive ability.

Increased Health Risks & Negative Impacts

Heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive issues are a few of the many health risks of drinking alcohol. There are also many cancers linked to alcohol use, including:

  • Breast
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Throat
  • Esophagus
  • Mouth

Excessive alcohol consumption also overworks the liver, leaving toxic byproducts behind in the bloodstream. At the same time, consuming alcohol increases the risk of heart issues, including high blood pressure, and stroke.

Sleep — another important bodily function —  is also impacted by alcohol. Despite being a sedative, alcohol causes sleep disruptions. Heavy drinking before bed may lead to a couple of hours of deep sleep, followed by fragmented periods of sleep and restlessness as alcohol levels drop and the brain shifts into heightened activity. This will keep you from getting the recommended 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep you need for optimal health.

Other serious health risks of alcohol consumption include mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol use also weakens immunity and interferes with the body’s natural ability to fight infection, disease, and other illnesses.

How to Avoid Health Complications

Abstaining from alcohol — even for a short period of time — may be the best way to help avoid health complications associated with long-term use.

Moderate consumption is the next best option, though even that over an extended period of time can still lead to alcohol-related health issues. Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women. (Heavy or excessive alcohol use is defined for women as consuming more than seven drinks per week and for men as consuming more than fourteen drinks per week.) Overall, eliminating or drastically limiting alcohol consumption is vital in order to avoid the health complications associated with alcohol use.

After tobacco, alcohol is the second most common form of substance abuse in the United States. If you are concerned about alcohol use and related health complications, our specialists can help. At United Physician Group, we are committed to your health and believe in prevention and intervention. Contact us online or call 833-523-0906 to make an appointment today.