April has been established by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD) as National Alcohol Dependence Month, and April 7 has been designated as National Alcohol Screening Day.
This month has been designated as a time to raise awareness about the effects of excessive drinking – not just on the body, but on the mind, and the lives of those around us. Alcoholism and excessive alcohol use are huge issues in America.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol-related deaths from drunk driving, organ failure, and other factors are the third highest cause of death in all of the US – and approximately 17 percent of men and 8 percent of women will develop some kind of alcohol dependence in their lifetime.
Nurses know how devastating alcohol can be – we see the results all the time. Liver and kidney failure, deaths from drunk driving, chronic conditions caused by drinking – alcohol abuse is a serious issue.
So to help promote knowledge of alcohol abuse and its effects, we’ve put together a list of the 5 organs that are put at risk by excessive drinking.
- The Heart
Your heart is put at risk by excessive drinking in a variety of ways. Alcohol abuse can increase your blood pressure, putting you at risk of hypertension, strokes, and increased risks of heart attacks, and it has been linked with overall poor health outcomes of the cardiovascular system.
One of the most common issues that plague heavy drinkers is cardiomyopathy. High blood pressure can cause the heart to become enlarged, thickened, and rigid, leading to poor heart performance such as irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Extreme cases of cardiomyopathy can lead to total heart failure and death from cardiac arrest. Limiting alcohol intake is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from cardiomyopathy, along with an overall healthy lifestyle.
- The Brain
Alcohol abuse can damage your brain permanently. The depressive effects of alcohol can slow down the relaying of information between neurotransmitters – this is one of the reasons that alcohol produces a euphoric feeling.
However, prolonged abuse of alcohol can permanently damage your neurotransmitters, resulting in behavioral and mood problems, and neurological problems such as memory loss, hallucinations, and confusion.
In addition, alcohol is extremely addicting, hijacking dopamine centers in the brain. This causes those who abuse alcohol to crave it even more – leading to a vicious cycle of addiction.