As we all move through the merriment of the festive period, the last thing you probably want to be hearing about is how alcohol affects your health, but it’s good to know because understanding the long term effects within the short term festivities could just change your perception when it comes to alcohol consumption and the overall effects of alcohol on your health.
Less is often not more during the holidays but we have all of the information you need to know when if comes to the effects of alcohol on your health, how to survive the party season without impacting on your body or mind too drastically as well as the details of our very own personal LetsGetChecked health challenge.
- What Does A Standard Drink Look Like?
- What Are The Effects Of Alcohol On The Body?
- What Are The Effects Of Alcohol On Your Mind?
- How Can You Enjoy Alcohol Sensibly?
- Our LetsGetChecked Health Challenge
What Does A Standard Drink Look Like?
Now we're not trying to scare you but we as a society need to put more time and energy into knowing how we can put our health through the ringer with bad health habits. Most of us don't know what a standard drink looks like, or the significance of what drinking a certain volume of alcohol within a certain time period can mean.
There are some sobering statistics out there when it comes to alcohol consumption in the U.S. One of the latest large scale studies shows that if no one drank alcohol in 2016, there would have been 2.8 million fewer deaths.
In another study carried out by The Lancet, it was found that those who have more than seven standard drinks a week have a lower life expectancy and a higher risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aneurysm than moderate drinkers.
Binge drinking is defined as the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. This is usually defined as 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women during this period.
Binge drinking is a habit that's quite easy to fall into, especially if you're doing rounds with your friends. Each time you are planning a night out, try to think about what a standard drink equates to, this way it's easier to know when you should stop drinking. This will also ensure that you enjoy and savour each drink a little bit more.
"Moderate drinkers" are those who have upto 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
"Binge drinkers" are defined as those who have seven standard drinks or more in one session. The National Institute Of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as "a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.8 grams/dl.
What Are The Effects Of Alcohol On The Body?
The short and long term effects of alcohol on your health vary from person to person. They are also dependent on your age, the frequency at which you drink, the volume of what you drink, your weight and your current health status. Lets take a look at some of the effects of alcohol on your health during alcohol consumption.
What Are Some Of The Common Physical Side Effects You May Experience During Alcohol Consumption?
When you're drinking, your pupils are more likely to constrict and dilate at a slower speed, this can distort your vision. Your vision will be affected by decreased contrast sensitivity which is why your eyes might take longer to adjust when you're going from light to darkness and darkness to light. In clubs, disco lights can play havoc on your eyes because of this slowdown. As alcohol is a diuretic, (increases your need to go to the bathroom) it may also cause your eyes to feel dry or itchy.
Your speech may begin to slur following the consumption of alcohol. It's also common to stumble over your words or forget words as you speak. Your speech is usually affected by alcohol when your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.1%, bear in mind that it is illegal to drive once your BAC reaches 0.08%.
Alcohol disrupts the firing of neurons in your brain that are responsible for long-term memory and voluntary movements. Alcohol affects the supplementary motor area that is associated with creating sentences and the Broca's area which is responsible for processing language. The slow down of neuron firing leads to a general slowdown in cognition and speech slurring.
Your blood pressure
Once you hit the three standard drink mark, your blood pressure will rise as your body begins to process the alcohol. Your blood pressure will not return to normal levels until your liver has processed and expelled the alcohol from your body.
If you get a headache or feel dizzy during alcohol consumption, this can indicate that you are experiencing temporary high blood pressure, this is likely to occur if you have a large amount of alcohol in a short time frame.
The liver is the biggest player in detoxing your body following alcohol consumption. Your liver breaks down 0.5-1 ounce of alcohol per hour. The liver works to remove alcohol from your blood however too much alcohol in a short period of time can lead to the build up of fatty acids in the liver. This buildup of fatty acids is often associated with obesity or being overweight. This may develop into a condition known as "fatty liver".
To combat this, think about what your liver is capable of processing in an hour vs. how much you are drinking per hour.
During alcohol consumption, alcohol is absorbed into the small intestine and stomach. Too much alcohol in the stomach may lead to vomiting as the body cannot process the volume quickly enough for the body to keep up with your drinking.
Alcohol impairs the small intestine's ability to process nutrients and vitamins which may act as a variable that causes you to become sick, after a string of night's out.
Your kidneys as well as the liver is responsible for the filtration of toxins from your body. As alcohol is a diuretic, a common side effect of drinking alcohol is the need to urinate more frequently.
This is often referred to as "breaking the seal". If you drink one glass of alcohol, your kidneys will work to expel that exact volume of alcohol in the form of urine, shortly after this trip to the bathroom, the diuretic effect will give you the urge to go return to the bathroom again.
Alcohol inhibits the pituitary secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which acts on the kidney to reabsorb water. Alcohol acts on the hypothalamus/pituitary to reduce the circulating levels of ADH. When ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water; consequently, the kidneys produce more urine.
Alcohol also suppresses the release of a hormone called vasopressin which is responsible for the reabsorption of fluids into the kidneys. Vasopressin is switched off to ensure the successful detoxing process of alcohol from the body.
This effect on the kidneys can lead to dehydration, nausea and feeling dizzy or head-achy.