Dix risques méconnus pour la santé liés à une consommation excessive chronique d’alcool

Presse Santé

Frequent and excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful to health. Alcohol can affect every system in the body. The amount of alcohol consumed, genetic factors, gender, body mass, and general health are factors that influence how a person’s health responds to chronic heavy drinking. However, studies consistently show that, in general, excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental to health and a leading cause of preventable death.

When the body absorbs more alcohol than it can metabolize, the excess builds up in the bloodstream. The heart circulates alcohol from the blood throughout the body, causing changes in normal body chemistry and functions. Even a single episode of heavy drinking can lead to significant bodily impairment, harm, or death. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the development of many chronic diseases and other serious health problems. Alcohol has been found to contribute to at least 60 different health problems.

Ten most common effects of excessive alcohol consumption

Some Facts About Chronic Heavy Drinking

Here are some key points about chronic binge drinking.

The definition of binge drinking is eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.
Any consumption of alcohol by a pregnant woman is binge drinking.
Alcohol use is associated with violent crime.
People who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who start drinking at age 21 or later.

1. Liver disease

Excessive alcohol consumption can affect many body systems. Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver, which is why the latter is particularly exposed to damage.

The body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxic and carcinogenic substance. Alcoholic liver disease is influenced by the amount and duration of alcohol abuse. Chronic and high alcohol consumption constitutes an important risk for its development. Excessive alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of alcoholic fatty liver disease, an early and reversible consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. Chronic alcohol consumption alters liver fat metabolism and excess fat accumulates in the liver.

Other effects on the liver include long-term inflammation, called alcoholic hepatitis. This can lead to the formation of scar tissue. Over a period of years or decades, the scarring can completely invade the liver, making it hard and nodular. This is called cirrhosis. If the liver is unable to perform its vital functions, multi-organ failure and death occur. Symptoms often only develop after significant damage has already been done.

2. Pancreatitis

Heavy alcohol use can lead to pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalization. The inflammation is likely related to premature activation of pancreatic enzyme proenzymes and chronic exposure to acetaldehyde, as well as other chemical activities in the pancreas caused by alcohol damage. About 70 percent of pancreatitis cases occur in people who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol.

3. Cancer

Chronic alcohol use can increase the risk of developing several types of cancer, including those of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. Acetaldehyde and alcohol itself contribute to the increased risk. People who smoke tobacco in addition to drinking have an increased risk of cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract.

4. Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause problems with the digestive system, including stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, and inflammation of the stomach lining, known as gastritis. As alcohol passes through the digestive tract, it begins to exert its toxic effects. Damage to the digestive system can also lead to dangerous internal bleeding due to enlargement of the veins in the esophagus associated with chronic liver disease. Alcohol interferes with gastric acid secretion. It can delay gastric emptying and affect muscle movements throughout the intestine. The gastrointestinal tract suffers a considerable amount of damage from alcohol.

5. Immune system dysfunction

Excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Alcohol causes changes in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Alcoholism can cause a low white blood cell count. This happens because the body’s production of white blood cells is suppressed and the cells become trapped in the spleen. Each episode of heavy drinking reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. Exposure to large amounts of alcohol and chronic heavy drinking negatively affect the production and function of white blood cells over time. The risk of pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), HIV infection and other diseases will be higher.

6. Brain damage

Alcohol is associated with blurred vision, fainting, slurred speech, difficulty walking, and slower reaction time. All of these symptoms are due to its effects on the brain. It alters receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain and interferes with a person’s cognitive functions, mood, emotions, and reactions on many levels.
Since alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it makes it difficult to process information and solve simple problems. Alcohol’s effect on serotonin and GABA receptors can cause neurological changes that can reduce a person’s normal fear of the consequences of their own actions, contributing to violent behavior or risk. Alcohol also affects fine motor coordination and balance, often leading to fall injuries. Heavy alcohol use can cause “memory lapses,” or the inability to remember events. Long-term heavy alcohol use can accelerate the normal aging process of the brain and lead to early and permanent dementia. Until the age of 24, the brain is still developing. Therefore, young adults are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol.

7. Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies

Dysfunctional alcohol consumption causes malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. This may be due in part to a poor diet, but also to nutrients not being broken down properly. They are not properly absorbed into the blood from the gastrointestinal tract and are not used effectively by the body’s cells. In addition, the ability of alcohol to disrupt the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow and cause bleeding from gastric ulcers can lead to the development of iron deficiency anemia.

8. Osteoporosis

Long-term heavy alcohol use can cause a form of dementia that affects memory, learning, and other mental functions. A strong consumption chronicle of alcohol, in particular pendant l’adolescence et le début de l’âge adulte, peut affecter considerably la santé osseuse, et elle peut augmenter le risque de développer une ostéoporose, avec une perte de masse osseuse, later in the life. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, especially in the proximal femur of the hip. Alcohol interferes with calcium balance, vitamin D production, and cortisol levels, leading to potential weakening of bone structure. People who drink heavily are more likely to fracture a vertebra than those who don’t. Drinking large amounts of alcohol in adolescence increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

9. Heart disease and cardiovascular health

Weight can cause high blood pressure by triggering the release of certain hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. This can have adverse effects on the heart.
Excessive alcohol consumption has long been linked to multiple cardiovascular complications, including angina pectoris, high blood pressure, and risk of heart failure. Stroke is a life-threatening complication of excessive alcohol consumption. Fluctuations in blood pressure and increased platelet activation are common during the body’s recovery period after a binge. This deadly combination increases the risk of ischemic stroke.

10. Accidents and injuries

Alcohol use, regardless of quantity, is linked to car accidents, domestic violence, falls, drowning, workplace accidents, suicides, and homicides.
Driving ability can be affected by a single drink, and a heavy drinker is likely to sustain more serious injuries in the event of an accident. Chronic or excessive alcohol consumption poses a great health risk. Excessive alcohol consumption, either on a single occasion or over a long period of time, can cause serious and irreversible bodily harm. No pattern of drinking is completely risk-free, and there is no reliable method of predicting how and when a person will experience the consequences of chronic heavy drinking.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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