The Physical Toll of Alcoholism
When people realize that their alcohol abuse is becoming a problem they are usually dealing with a lot of external consequences to their drinking. They may have hurt their relationships, ended their career, gotten in trouble with the law or ruined their finances. However, many alcoholics are also dealing with physical health issues that they may not even realize are affecting them.
Alcoholism can be extremely damaging to the body, especially heavy alcohol use over a long period of time. Flooding the bloodstream with dangerous toxins on a regular basis can lead to serious health problems because of the constant deterioration of the body. People that are addicted to alcohol may not be aware of how many changes to their physical well-being they are experiencing over time.
Fortunately many of the physical health issues can be reversed through treatment and abstinence. If a person with health problems continues to drink alcohol they may eventually end up with fatal health consequences. Seeking rehab treatment is the most important thing an alcoholic can do to improve their health.
Toxic Effects of Alcohol
All alcohol products such as beer, wine and liquor include a substance called ethyl alcohol which, in spite of its social acceptance, is essentially poisonous to the body. Ethyl alcohol passes directly into the bloodstream and because it is toxic,needs to be filtered out which puts a lot of strain on the liver. The liver is responsible for breaking alcohol down and eliminating it from the body as quickly as possible.
The liver is only capable of processing the amount of alcohol in one drink per hour and any more than that cause a lot of harm to the body. Alcohol can also have serious effects on the heart by disrupting the electrical signalling system that helps the organ to function. As the electrical signals are disrupted it can lead to restricted blood flow which can cause damage to the heart due to lack of nutrients and oxygen that are supplied in our blood.
Alcohol can cause serious damage to the brain which can lead to a number of recognizable health problems. The short term effects of alcohol can lead to a slowing down of activity in the brain and central nervous system. Activity between nerve cells that provide communication through the body can even slow down to the point where the brain is not sending an adequate number of messages to the lungs, heart and other vital organs which is usually the result of alcohol poisoning.
Health Problems Associated with Heavy Drinking
The effects that alcohol can have on the brain, heart and liver can lead to physical conditions that require medical treatment. One of the most common health issues with alcoholics is cirrhosis of the liver which involves scarring of the organ due to repeated damage from alcohol use. Cirrhosis can cause weakness, loss of appetite, bruising easily, yellowing of the skin and fatigue.
Heavy drinking can cause a lot of damage to the heart and ultimately lead to conditions like cardiomyopathy in which the muscle of the heart weakens and fails. People who are addicted to alcohol may also experience heart rhythm abnormalities and may be more at risk for heart attack or stroke. Binge drinking makes platelets clump together into blood clots which can double the risk of death from a heart attack.
Alcohol’s effects on the brain can have long term consequences that are difficult to recover from. People with very severe alcohol addictions sometimes develop dementia as a result of their brain shrinking due to heavy drinking. This shrinkage can result in memory loss, difficulty solving problems and other problems with thinking and recalling information.
Alcoholism can also lead to other health problems such as high blood pressure and nerve damage. Alcohol disrupts the nervous system which over time can cause blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of other problems such as kidney disease and heart disease. Nerves can also be damaged to the point of feeling numbness or “pins and needles” in various parts of the body.
Recovering from Physical Problems
Even though the health effects of alcoholism can be severe, many people can recover from these issues and improve their health dramatically if they are able to quit drinking. Taking care of the body by abstaining from alcohol, eating, exercising and getting professional medical help can reduce many of these conditions. Physicians can help guide patients into the right physical health treatment that will improve their symptoms but the first step is quitting alcohol permanently.
If you or someone you know is experiencing physical health problems as a result of alcohol abuse, seek professional help from a treatment center as soon as possible. Symptoms can improve over time with treatment and sobriety can prevent these conditions from becoming fatal.