Heart and Abdominal Organs Are Severely Affected by Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Not as many people know that excessive consumption of alcohol contributes greatly to heart disease. After years of drinking, a person’s heart becomes weak and stretched out. It’s impossible to pump enough blood through a heart like this and other organs suffer oxygen shortage. This condition is called cardiomyopathy.
Even too much alcohol drunk on one occasion can damage the heart’s function. Moderate to heavy drinking or too much alcohol all at once can result in an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation (AF), which can last minutes or days. If brief, AF may not be serious. If it lasts, it can increase the risk of stroke or lead to heart failure.
Heavy alcohol consumption over a period of years is directly associated with congestive heart failure that is evidenced by shortness of breath, swollen extremities, heart enlargement and finally, fibrous damage to the heart that can lead to death.
While there is some evidence that low to moderate use of alcohol may have benefits to one’s heart health, overuse is associated with greater risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke due to damage to the heart muscle.
Stomach and esophagus
It’s not hard to understand that alcohol would damage the stomach and digestive system. After all, this is the first system that first has to contain and absorb the alcohol. Excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic gastritis which occurs when your stomach lining becomes inflamed. When gastritis becomes chronic, ulcers or stomach cancer may develop.
Alcohol use may also contribute to GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, which allows stomach acids to splash into the esophagus, causing burning and pain. Cancer of the esophagus also becomes a risk.
Tissues where the esophagus meets the stomach can become so damaged that they tear and bleed. This tear may heal on its own but if severe, can bleed so much that surgery and transfusions are needed.
The pancreas produces insulin and digestive enzymes that enable a person to break down food. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause acute (short-lasting) inflammation called pancreatitis which may resolve with adjustments to one’s diet and lifestyle, particularly stopping consumption of alcohol. Prolonged alcohol consumption can cause chronic pancreatitis which can be life-threatening.
During chronic pancreatitis, parts of the pancreas can die, leading to abscesses and infection that can spread throughout the abdomen. The death of pancreas tissues releases digestive enzymes into the abdomen that create a chain reaction of organ destruction. This organ collapse results in the death of the patient.
Less severe damage to the pancreas can also cause diabetes and malnutrition, a common problem among alcoholics.
In addition to the kind of organ collapse triggered by pancreatitis, kidney function is directly altered by the presence of alcohol. The consumption of alcohol throws off the correct balance of water and minerals in the body, which is particularly dangerous for a person with liver damage or disease. This imbalance can cause seizures or a severe drop in blood sugar. Long-term alcoholics tend to show signs of dehydration because of the derangement of kidney function.
The tendency of alcohol consumption to raise one’s blood pressure can damage the delicate tissues of the kidneys. This is a leading cause of kidney failure.
Even one’s lungs are damaged by heavy drinking, as new evidence shows. And when your brain is harmed by alcohol, not all the problems can be corrected by stopping consumption.