Term Paper: Alcohol and Its Effects on the Body

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Alcohol and Its Effects on the Body

Alcohol is a legal substance, but the fact that it is legal does not mean that it cannot have harmful effects on the body. Some alcoholic beverages have proven to be beneficial in small quantities. However, overconsumption of alcohol can have some serious and harmful effects on the body. We know that drinking alcohol and driving is against the law because too much alcohol can impair a person's judgement as well as physical coordination. These effects are usually temporary since once the effects of the alcohol wears off, the person returns back to normal with improved judgement and physical coordination. The long-term use of alcohol can have serious health effects on a person. Some of which are: liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and depression.

Alcohol and its Effects on the Liver

The liver is a vital organ in the human body. Many other vital organs in the body can be transplanted, such as the kidney and heart but it is not yet possible to transplant a liver. The body cannot survive without this organ. It is responsible for many important functions within the body. The liver converts glucose to glycogen, it breaks down fats in the body, it filters harmful substances from the blood and performs a whole host of other functions. Many things can affect the functioning of the liver and one of them is excessive consumption of alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of liver disease. Some of the symptoms of liver disease are jaundice, fever and malaise. However, to accurately diagnose liver disease, a biopsy of the liver is generally needed. There are different stages of liver disease from steatohepatitis which is an early stage of liver disease and is usually reversible once the patient stops consuming alcohol. A later and more serious stage of liver disease is cirrhosis of the liver where the liver has seriously deteriorated and can no longer function properly. At this stage, the condition is usually not reversible (Diehl 9).

According to Szabo, up to 50% of end stage liver disease is because of overconsumption of alcohol. He states that the disease is easier for women to get because they require a smaller amount of alcohol than men to get to the advance stages of liver disease (S49). There has long been a debate on what is considered moderate levels of alcohol consumption. Since women stand a chance of developing liver disease faster than men if they consume the same amount, it is difficult to say. Every person is different and to be on the safe side, perhaps a maximum of only two to three drinks per week would be considered a safe and moderate amount. but, as mentioned before, it all depends on the person. Two to three drinks per week for a woman weighing 100 pounds or less may do more damage to her liver than it would a man who weighs over 200 pounds. For this reason, it is up to the individual to be responsible with alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and Heart Disease

Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, it can either be beneficial to the heart or detrimental. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can have a positive effect on the heart and can decrease cardiovascular disease. However, overconsumption of alcohol has been shown to contribute to cardiovascular disease (Britton et al. 932). The question of what is considered moderate alcohol consumption comes into play again. Rimm and Moats state that the definition of moderate alcohol consumption has a broad range and that the standard is no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men is considered moderate (S3). Moderate drinking of alcohol is said to raise good cholesterol and reduce plaque accumulation in the arteries. Excessive drinking of alcohol however, can be toxic. Over a period of time, heavy drinking can cause the heart to weaken which brings on another host of illnesses. It can also cause hypertension and congestive heart failure.

In order for these things to occur, the drinking has to be at a level that is considered excessive and most agree that three drinks or more everyday is considered excessive alcohol consumption. If this is done over a considerable amount of years, it can cause serious, irreversible heart problems. Binge drinking can also cause the heart to weaken if done over time. This is when excessive drinking occurs on one or a few days a week over a long period of time. Heart disease is a serious illness. As the disease progresses, it can greatly impact the quality of life. Patients are more prone to heart attacks and can no longer function as most people do performing normal everyday activities.

Heart disease due to excessive alcohol consumption is something that can be avoided. Those affected should switch from heavy liquor to perhaps one glass of red wine per day. Red wine is rich in antioxidants which is very good for the body. Antioxidants help rid the body of excess free radicals which can cause our cells to weaken making us more susceptible to heart disease and cancer to name a few. Certain fruits are also high in antioxidants which would also be a good source for anyone, but if a person is a drinker and feels the need to drink an alcoholic beverage or two per day, then red wine would be the best choice since studies have shown that it can actually improve the heart instead of causing heart disease.

Alcohol and the Risk of a Stroke

A stroke is a condition in where a blood clot interrupts the flow of blood to a certain part of the brain. This causes lack of oxygen to the brain and which can result in moderate to severe brain damage. Damage to the brain can cause impaired speech or memory and it can often limit the range of movement on one side of the person's body. In order to avoid a stroke, a person should follow a healthy diet and get regular exercise while reducing stress. There is no guarantee that a person will never get a stroke, but certain measures can be taken to reduce the risk. Alcohol has been shown to decrease blood flow to the brain.

Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of stroke, especially in males (Caicoya et al. 679). Much like the effect that alcohol has on the heart, similar effects can be associated with stroke. Moderate consumption of such alcoholic beverages, such as red wine can help to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, but on the contrary an excessive amount of alcohol consumption has the opposite effect. It can decrease the flow of the blood to the brain which is vital for the brain to function.

Alcohol and Depression

Depression has become a major health issue in recent years. Many people suffer from it and it can range from mild to severe. There are many prescription drugs on the market now (Zoloft, Prozac, etc.) manufactured to help people deal with this issue. For some, depression is temporary perhaps because of a change of events in their life and they can overcome it without the aid of any type of medicine. For others, depression is chronic and lasting and they seek escape on a daily basis. Many people do not seek medical help for their depression. They instead choose to treat themselves in the form of alcohol consumption. Inebriation generally has the effect of making a person forget about his problems, temporarily. However, once the person returns to his normal state of mind the problems are still there. For this reason, some may over consume alcohol to remain in a state of forgetfulness and this can exacerbate depression even more.

There are many reasons why people may turn to alcohol to combat depression. Childhood sexual abuse has been shown to be a major cause of alcohol abuse in some. Sexual abuse of children is oftentimes committed someone close to the child. This is a traumatic experience and in order to cope, many turn to alcohol. Alcohol is illegal for persons under the age of twenty-one (21), but many young people find it easy to get. They can sometimes steal it from their parents or have an older relative or friend buy it for them. They may be too ashamed or even threatened by their abuser, so they do not tell anyone what is happening to them. Instead, they drown their sorrows by consuming too much alcohol so that by the time they are young adults they are alcoholics.

This long-term abuse of this substance in the teens usually leads to the many illnesses discussed earlier in this paper. What most people who are depressed don't realized is that while drinking alcohol moderately may give them a boost in their emotions causing them to feel better, overconsumption has the opposite effect and can be very damaging to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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