Alcohol has a detrimental effect on your health, so it’s essential to drink responsibly. There are many ways to do this responsibly; having a friend who can hold you accountable for your decisions is beneficial.
Moderate drinking may offer some potential advantages, though these are relatively minor and may not apply to everyone.
1. Increased risk of cancer
Drinking any form of alcohol increases your risk for cancer, particularly head and neck, breast, colorectal, esophageal and liver.
Alcohol, which contains ethanol, can cause your body to produce acetaldehyde which damages DNA – this is how carcinogens cause cancer.
2. Increased risk of heart disease
Alcohol can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and heart failure. However, moderation (fewer than two drinks a day for women and two drinks for men) is key in protecting your heart from this type of damage.
Moderate drinkers may experience fewer clots in their arteries and a decreased likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome – an array of issues that increases your chances for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
3. Increased risk of alcoholic liver disease
People who consume a significant amount of alcohol are at greater risk for developing liver issues. This is especially true if they are genetically predisposed or have been drinking consistently over an extended period of time.
Heavy drinking can lead to liver conditions such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. These diseases are serious and sometimes fatal.
4. Increased risk of cirrhosis
Drinking excessively over an extended period can increase the likelihood of liver damage that could eventually lead to cirrhosis, a severe form of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Although most heavy drinkers never develop cirrhosis, it remains a serious condition that could ultimately result in death.
Cirrhosis risk increased with alcohol consumption, but was significantly lower when consumed with meals. Furthermore, daily and outside of meal drinkers experienced greater risks than those who only drink occasionally.
5. Increased risk of dementia
A recent study has demonstrated that moderate drinking, defined as one to two drinks daily, may reduce your risk for dementia. Conversely, heavy drinking (three or more drinks daily) is linked with an increased likelihood of developing the disorder.
Researchers examined data from 15 prospective epidemiological cohort studies that followed an age- and sex-matched sample of older adults across six continents. After accounting for relevant factors like alcohol intake, those who drank moderately were less likely to develop dementia than those who abstained from alcohol altogether.
6. Increased risk of stroke
Heavy drinking has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, particularly hemorrhagic strokes. Additionally, it raises the likelihood of high blood pressure and diabetes – both known stroke risk factors – which are both known to raise this risk further.
According to research published in The Lancet, moderate drinking (one or two drinks per day) may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke. On the other hand, heavy drinking increases both types of stroke risk.
7. Increased risk of diabetes
Heavy drinking, often associated with alcoholism, can greatly increase the risk of diabetes. Furthermore, it may exacerbate diabetes-related lipid abnormalities – known to be risk factors for heart disease – that already pose a threat.
A study of middle-aged British men revealed that moderate drinkers (up to 42 units per week) had the lowest risk for diabetes. Heavy drinkers, due to their increased body weight, had the highest risk.
8. Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Alcohol is toxic to brain cells and can damage cognitive functioning. Furthermore, it has the potential to accelerate Alzheimer’s disease’s progression.
There are many factors that can increase your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease, both genetic and lifestyle-related. Genetics play a major role in this decision-making process.
9. Increased risk of infertility
Alcohol has a devastating effect on fertility, both male and female. Studies show even moderate drinking can lengthen the time it takes to conceive and lower your chances of having an unhealthy baby.
Heavy drinking (more than 14 units a week) can have an adverse effect on fertility by decreasing testosterone levels and decreasing sperm quality. It may also make women’s periods heavier and irregular.
10. Increased risk of depression
Alcohol can impact serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain, potentially leading to feelings of depression. This explains why many people who drink regularly experience anxiety or sadness after consuming alcoholic beverages.
Researchers recently found that low-level drinking, below the guideline thresholds for risky drinking, is linked to a reduced risk of depression. However, the exact cause of this relationship remains uncertain.