September is Alcohol Awareness Month
10 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Body
Learn how small amounts of alcohol can have a big effect on your body. From the very first sip, alcohol enters your bloodstream and quickly travels through your body. Based on your age, gender and health, it may stay there for two hours or longer. During that time, it touches nearly every organ and system along the way.
Alcohol can affect you in the following ways:
- Your Brain Slows-Messages travel between brain cells. When you drink, the pace of thoughts and feelings slows.
- Your Brain Shrinks-When you drink heavily over time, the structure of your brain changes.
- Your Blood Pressure Changes-Chronic heavy drinking or even one episode of binge drinking causes the brain to release stress hormones.
- Your Heart Beats Irregularly-Even moderate drinking can raise the risk for a heart rhythm issue called atrial fibrillation (AFib).
- Your Blood Sugar Can Drop-Alcohol can cause low blood sugar. Sometimes this occurs right after drinking.
- Your Body Can’t Do Other Work-Drinking keeps your body from functioning the way it should.
- Your Pancreas Is Hurt-Over time, drinking can interfere with your body’s ability to use glucose for energy.
- Your Liver Is Harmed-No organ works harder to clear your body of alcohol than the liver.
- Your Cancer Risk Rises-Experts say drinking even a little bit boosts your risk for some types of cancer.
- Your Immune System Weakens-Alcohol interferes with your body’s normal defenses against bacteria and other bugs that make you sick.
When you cut back or quit drinking altogether, it lowers your risk for alcohol dependence and can improve your health in many ways. If you’re ready to make a change, try these steps:
- Set a goal. Your doctor can help you know how much alcohol, if any, is healthy for you.
- Track your drinks. Log them on paper or use your mobile phone.
- Avoid triggers. Stay away from people and places that make you want to drink.
- Have a plan. Know in advance how you’ll say no to a drink.
If you worry that you may have a problem, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may provide treatment or have suggestions for referrals. If you don’t have a doctor, call the customer service number on your member ID card.
For more information on understanding how alcohol affects the body, read here.
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