Chronic consumption of alcohol is the regular intake of alcoholic beverages in consistent amounts over an extended period of time. It can have severe adverse consequences on health. Acetaldehyde is a toxic byproduct that is made in the process of alcohol breakdown. It obstructs the absorption of nutrients the body needs, causes hangovers, inflammation and DNA damage that may also lead to cancers. Although acetaldehyde is short-lived, usually existing in the body for a short time before it’s further broken down, it has the potential of causing significant damage.
Regardless of how much a person consumes, the body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol every hour. The response to a person's health to the chronic consumption of alcohol is influenced by various factors like genetics, gender, body mass, and the person's general state of health. Some of the diseases caused by chronic alcohol consumption are:
1. Liver diseases
Chronic drinking makes it difficult for the liver to break down fats. It results in the build up of fats in the liver and leads to a condition called fatty liver disease.
Other effects on the liver include long-term inflammation, called alcoholic hepatitis. This can lead to scar tissue. Over a period of time, the scarring can completely invade the liver, causing it to be hard and nodular. This is known as cirrhosis.
2. Digestive Diseases
Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to pancreatitis which is a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalization.
Stomach Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, heartburn and inflammation of the stomach lining are also caused due to chronic drinking.
4. Immune system dysfunction
The immune system becomes weak with chronic drinking. This makes the body vulnerable to many infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.
5. Brain damage
Alcohol is associated with memory lapses, slurred speech, difficulty walking and slowed reaction time. These are all due to their effects on the brain.
6. Malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies
A poor diet or poor nutrient absorption, caused by the byproducts of alcohol metabolism, by the body can lead to vitamin deficiencies and malnourishment.
Chronic heavy alcohol consumption, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, can dramatically affect bone health, and it may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, with a loss of bone mass, later on in life.
Chronic alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing different cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and breast.
9. Cardiovascular and Circulatory Diseases
Drinking alcohol can cause a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure. In the long-term, regular binge drinking can lead to ongoing increased heart rate, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscle and irregular heartbeat. All this can increase the risk of alcohol-caused heart attack and stroke.
10. Chronic Physiological Disorders may also arise due to heavy drinking. Some examples are, severe depression, emotional instability, anxiety and impaired cognitive function.
If you don't drink alcohol, it is better not to start. However, if you drink a light to moderate amount and are healthy, you can probably continue as long as you drink responsibly. It is important to check with your doctor about what's right for your health and safety.