16 August 2018

Vital Signs: The dangers of alcohol to the body


Did you know? Drinking more than fourteen units a week on a regular basis is harmful to your long-term health. While we are often told to limit our alcohol intake, do we really know why? We explored how excessive drinking can affect individual areas of the human body...

Alcohol and sugar

Alcoholic drinks are full of sugar, accounting for 10% of 29 to 64-year-olds in the UK’s daily intake of added sugar, and 6% for over 65s. The carbonated drinks that are often mixed with spirits are also full of sugar. We all know the risks associated with consuming too much sugar - it’s high in calories, and excessive consumption can lead to unhealthy weight gain.

Alcohol and the heart

The heart muscles can actually weaken if you drink too regularly. This is called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Symptoms include extreme tiredness, irregular heartbeat and in extreme cases, heart failure.

Alcohol and the liver 

Alcohol is quickly soaked up through the lining of the stomach and the upper part of the gut and into your bloodstream. The higher the concentration of alcohol, the faster it will be absorbed. From there, the alcohol is carried to your liver as well as other organs and body tissue.  

Alcohol and headaches

Ethanol is a natural diuretic. This means that alcohol stimulates the body to excrete vitamins, minerals, and salt through the kidneys, which could lead to dehydration and chemical imbalances. Dehydration represents an imbalance of bodily fluids and nutrients in the body, affecting blood flow and pressure to the brain. This is a common cause of headaches.

Alcohol and the stomach

Alcohol can increase the amount of acid in the stomach and irritate the lining of the stomach. Drinking too much alcohol can cause gastritis, ulcers and reflux.

Alcohol and blood pressure

Drinking too much alcohol can release hormones or affect the muscles in your blood vessels, causing them to constrict. When your blood vessels are narrower, the heart has to work much harder to move blood around your body. High blood pressure is dangerous if left untreated. High blood pressure is the most common alcohol-related health problem.


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Source: drinkaware.co.uk