Despite the occasional pop news article about how beer is good for your bones and how red wine reduces coronary artery disease, there aren’t too many people who would argue that alcohol is actually good for you. This holds exceptionally true when you drink to excess, especially on a regular basis. A good bit of the factors that decide your health are undoubtedly genetic. Other factors that determine your health and longevity include what type of diet you have, how often you exercise, your daily stress levels, how much quality sleep you get and, among others, how much alcohol you consume on a daily basis. Alcoholics face a far more severe spectrum of health issues than your average non-drinker, and the onset of one health issue can be a slippery slope towards the rest, especially if news about your worsened health depresses you, driving you to drink even more. Below are the 10 most likely health issues that alcoholics can expect to encounter.
INCREASED RISK OF CERTAIN CANCERS
You may be familiar with the links between processed food and an increased risk of certain types of cancers, but did you know that you run the same risk with the overconsumption of alcohol? Alcoholics are believed to be at risk due to the acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen, that is produced as the body tries to process alcohol. Mouth cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and esophageal cancer can all be symptomatic of regular heavy drinking.
Regular heavy drinking can produce blood clots, which are formed when a group of platelets bunches together. These blood clots are very dangerous and cause a heart attack and in some cases even a stroke. Drinking can also enable a condition known as cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscles are so weakened they simply cannot work anymore. Alcoholics who are lucky enough to have already survived one heart attack are at double the risk for a second.
CIRRHOSIS OF THE LIVER
The godfather of all drinking problems, cirrhosis of the liver, is caused by such abuse of your liver over a period of time it is simply no longer able to carry out its functions anymore. The primary function of your liver, unfortunately, is to “filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs.”
DECLINING MENTAL FUNCTION/DEMENTIA
The loss of brain power and function as we age is perfectly normal and, quite frankly, terrifying enough on its own. The brain of an alcoholic experiences a much more rapid version of this process, specifically targeting the area of the brain associated with memory. This increases your chances of dementia, even from a very young age, and also impairs your cognitive function and your problem-solving abilities as well.
Which came first: the depression or the alcoholism? Both answers are potentially correct depending on the individual alcoholic. A heavy drinker can cause an overlooked psychiatric diagnosis of depression because of an overlap in symptoms. In this case, the flags that signal depression may be written off as nothing more than a result of the drinking. Likewise, moderate to heavy drinkers can quickly head down a slippery slope if they are drinking as a means of dealing with their depression.
Most commonly thought of as an old man’s disease, drinkers of all ages are susceptible to developing gout. Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood which then settle in the joints, primarily of the ankle and foot (think: kidney stone but in your big toe). The result makes the use of the affected joints extremely painful and difficult.
Excessive heavy drinking has the ability to cause seizures even in people who have never previously suffered from them. If an alcoholic already suffers from a seizure-inducing condition such as epilepsy, the drinking will invariably make the condition worse and possibly render the medications used to treat it ineffective.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Heavy drinking damages your nervous system. That’s as nicely as that can be said. Since one of the functions of the nervous system is to regulate the dilation of the blood vessels, drinking causes your blood pressure to rise. Heavy, prolonged drinking causes high blood pressure, and high blood pressure leads to heart-related issues including heart disease.
Alcoholic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that develops specifically in alcoholics. The onset of this damage usually comes in the form of pins and needles feeling in the extremities, similar to when an arm or a foot has fallen asleep. Other signs of alcoholic neuropathy include muscle weakness, constipation, numbness of limbs, and erectile dysfunction.
Alcohol abuse can cause the onset of anemia. Anemia is a condition “in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.”
This is list is by no means inclusive of every single health problem in which alcoholism plays a substantial role. It can also worsen pre-existing health conditions and even cause some treatments and medications, such as antibiotics, to be completely ineffective. The sooner you contact our caring support staff here at Asana Recovery the sooner you can change your life and your health for the better.
Give us a call or visit our Asana Recovery website today and learn about our detox and our residential treatment programs. We have an expertly trained, caring staff that is fully prepared to assist you on your road to recovery in a comfortable, judgment-free environment. We know recovery is difficult. There is no reason for you to walk that path alone. Please, let us help you get back to being you.