Too much of anything is bad for the body. The key to reducing harm when consuming alcohol is drinking in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, but avoiding alcohol altogether is better for your health. Alcohol affects people differently, but there are a number of health conditions caused by excessive alcohol use that affect both women and men.
Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and drink larger amounts, differences in body structure and biology between the two genders cause women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to remove it from their systems. These differences also make women more susceptible to long-term health problems with alcohol use.
According to the CDC, excessive drinking may disrupt menstrual cycles and increase the risk of infertility. Other alcohol-related health concerns for women include liver disease, neurological issues, and cancers. Studies have shown that women are at higher risk for these conditions, but men are also affected by these conditions.
Men are more likely than women to drink excessively. Excessive alcohol consumption among men interferes with testicular function and male hormone production, resulting in impotence, infertility, and reduction of facial and chest hair. Other alcohol-related health concerns in men include cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
A deadly consequence of binge drinking is alcohol poisoning. According to the CDC, an average of six people die of alcohol poisoning each day in the U.S. Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shut down critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death.
In the United States, one standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of alcohol is found in 12 ounces of beer, about eight or nine ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor. Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
Learning about the effects of alcohol on your body can help save your life. If you’re struggling with excessive alcohol consumption or are concerned with its impact on your body, talk with your St. Joseph Health primary care physician.
CDC - Fact Sheets - Alcohol Use and Your Health
CDC - Fact Sheets - Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health
CDC - Fact Sheets - Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women's Health
CDC - Alcohol Poisoning Deaths