Alcohol; how it affects men and women differently by Meher Singh

Alcohol; how it affects men and women differently
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Increasingly, young adults are no longer drinking; as millennials become more aware of the health issues relating to alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, studies have shown that alcohol is responsible for 5% of deaths globally. Consumption of alcohol in moderation may reduce inflammation, reduce blood clots and increase your HDL which is the good cholesterol.

But drinking too much is never a good idea.

Alcohol adversely affects the brain, heart, and liver, pancreas and may result in cancer and may also affect your immune system. Long-term consumption of alcohol may affect the liver which is the organ that helps to break down and remove harmful toxins that are harmful to the body. Drinking too much alcohol causes liver cirrhosis which is the swelling of the liver. Atrial fibrillation (which is like arrhythmia) causes the upper chamber to shiver. Alcohol can cause great damage to the heart, raise blood pressure and increase heart rate which may result in a heart attack or even a stroke. Regular drinking can lead to heart burns and cardiomyopathy, which is weakening of your heart muscles. Alcohol causes memory loss and may have serious adverse effects on the brain.

Alcohol low-risk guidelines are the same for men and women, but for different reasons. There are some similarities in how alcohol affects men and women but there are differences too. Even though access alcohol is bad for both men and women, biologically they both process alcohol differently.

Effect of alcohol on men

Men experience more alcohol-related harm as compared to women as they are known drink more. Additionally, men have a higher risk of alcohol-related injury in compared to women. An average man weighs more as compared to women hence the tissues and muscles absorb alcohol. When women and men drink equally the same amount, men have a lower concentration of alcohol in their blood as compared to women. Men are able to dilute alcohol within the body as they have a lower ratio of fat to water than women. Consumption of alcohol makes the individuals eat more as compared to how much one would eat on a daily basis. The fact is that eating unhealthier food (burger, hot dogs and pizzas) has the same amount of calories that consuming four pints of beer would have, as resulting in weight gain. Long-term drinking to excess can have many adverse effects on your health, including increasing your chances of a whole host of long-term health issues like:

  • liver damage
  • heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Bone disease
  • Inflamed pancreas
  • Irritated stomach
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Gout, an arthritic condition that causes inflammation. Swelling and pain in the joints which is most common in men aged 30 to 60.

Effect of Alcohol on fertility, sexual performance and impotence in Men (erectile dysfunction)

In small amounts, alcohol may give confidence and help feel less inhibited. But it certainly won’t help one’s performance in the bedroom. Studies have shown that alcohol reduces testosterone levels, affects hormone levels, and inhibits sperms from developing properly. It also affects sperm production and movement. This can lead to loss of libido and reduce sperm quantity and quality. It often reduces a couple’s chances of conceiving. Alcohol may also affect the structure and movement of sperm by stopping the liver from properly metabolizing vitamin A11, which is needed for sperm to develop. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system which means it can make it difficult for some men to get, and keep, an erection (the infamous ‘brewer’s droop’).

Alcohol can mess with one’s appearance

One probably thinks twice about eating a hot dog followed by a burger with a doughnut for dessert. But drinking four pints of lager might not cause one much concern. Excessive drinking can lead to weight gain. But it isn’t just the calories in the drink that makes one gain weight. Alcohol reduces the amount of fat one’s body burns for energy. Because we can’t store alcohol in the body, our bodies want to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and this process takes priority over absorbing nutrients and burning fat. Excessive long-term drinking can also cause some appearance changes to men’s bodies.

They include:

  • Withering of the testicles
  • Enlargement of the breasts
  • Loss of hair on the body
  • Beer belly

Blood vessels in the face to expand due to a skin disorder called Rosacea. It makes ones face permanently redder. It can also cause inflamed red bumps and pus spots.

Effects of alcohol on women

When men and women drink equally the same amount, the blood alcohol level in women will be higher as compared to the men. Unlike for men, women have more body fat and less body water and alcohol is held in the body water and not in the body fat so the alcohol is more concentrated.

Here are some facts about the specific health harms women put themselves at risk from developing, if they regularly drink too much alcohol. For women, alcohol can put one at greater risk of breast cancer and infertility. It can also increase some side-effects of the menopause. So, whatever age you are, it’s important to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption and drink within the guidelines to keep risks from alcohol at a low level.

The health effects covered below are those specific to women but there are many others that affect people of all genders. If a woman and a man drink the same amount, the woman’s blood alcohol level will almost always be higher than the man’s. There are several reasons for this:

Women tend to be smaller built than men. It means that the same amount of alcohol is going into a smaller body. Even if a woman is the same weight as a man, she will have a higher blood alcohol level if she drinks the same amount as that man. Alcohol is held in the body in body water, not in body fat. Women generally have a higher proportion of body fat than men, so have less body water. That means the alcohol is more concentrated. It’s possible that some alcohol is broken down in the stomach before it reaches the bloodstream. This may happen less in women if they drink a lot of alcohol.

Alcohol can affect fertility in women

Consumption of alcohol can disrupt the menstrual cycle for women and drinking less alcohol may reduce the chances for women to conserve. If women decide to drink during pregnancy, it will not only affect her health but it may affect the infant as well. Drinking daily may cause disturbance to a women’s sleep cycle which may result in you feeling lazy and lethargic the next day. Alcohol is known to cause dehydration which may affect one’s skin. Alcohol may also trigger some symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and loss of sleep like women experiencing menopause. Some of the long-term effects of alcohol may be:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Breast cancer
  • Aging

Overall, alcohol is harmful if not had in moderate quantity. One must know how much their body can handle. Some common effects of alcohol for both men and women may be:

  • Liver damage
  • Weight gain
  • Cancer
  • Disturbance in sleep pattern
  • Unhappy relationships / marriages
  • Accidents
  • Heart problems
  • Slurry speech / blurred vision
  • Increased risk of getting breast cancer in women

It’s clear from a number of large scale studies that there is a link between alcohol consumption and cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women so it’s important to be aware of how drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing the disease. The more one drinks, the higher are ones risks of developing several types of cancer, including liver, bowel, breast, mouth, esophageal cancer (gullet) and laryngeal cancer (voice box).cancer.

Alcohol can affect fertility in women

Couples wanting to conceive do have guidelines. It’s recommended that women trying to have a baby or pregnant women, should not drink alcohol at all to keep health risks to the baby as low as possible.

Alcohol can also disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle. Studies have shown that even drinking small amounts can reduce the chances of conceiving.

Alcohol and pregnancy

Drinking alcohol at any stage of pregnancy can cause harm to the baby and the more you drink, the greater the risk. This is why it is recommended that the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. If one is now pregnant and drank only small amounts of alcohol before realizing one is pregnant and stopped when one found out, the risk of harm to the baby is low. 

Drinking alcohol can affect appearance in women

There’s no doubt alcohol can have an effect on one’s appearance like tired eyes, spots and weight gain.  Alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process so one often wake up feeling and looking like one hasn’t had much rest. Alcohol dehydrates the body too, including the skin. It’s also thought to deprive the skin of certain vital vitamins and nutrients. With two large glasses of wine containing the same number of calories as a burger, it’s easy to see why regular drinking can make you gain weight. Alcohol also reduces the amount of fat the body burns for energy. Because one can’t store alcohol in the body, our systems want to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and this process takes priority over absorbing nutrients and burning fat.

Alcohol and ageing in women

Even if one drinks the same amount of alcohol as one gets older, it’s likely to affect you more than younger people. As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat. We also break down alcohol more slowly. This means we’re more sensitive to its effects. When women reach menopause, their bodies are affected by changing hormones. Alcohol can trigger some symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats. Menopause can also disrupt your sleep because of night sweats and also make one gain weight. Alcohol often makes both of these issues worse. As we get older, our bones slowly get thinner too, particularly in women after the menopause. Drinking a lot of alcohol can make this worse, increasing one’s risk of osteoporosis (a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break)

Staying in control of your drinking

Here are a few ways one can cut back:

If one wants to cut down, a great way is to have several drink-free days a week and see the positive results one notices. Some people drink alcohol to relax, but in reality alcohol can make one feel even more stressed out. Try not to make alcohol the key to unwind after a hectic and stressful day. Consider some alternative stress-busters, like hitting the gym or having a hot tub bath.

One can cut down on units by switching to drinks that are lower in alcohol like a small (125ml) measure of wine topped up with soda, instead of a large glass of wine.

If one does choose to drink that amount, it’s best to spread ones drinking evenly over three or more days. If you wish to cut down the amount you are drinking, a good way to do this is to have several drink-free days per week.

For both men and women, regular drinking can lead to the body building up a tolerance to alcohol. Basically one will need to drink more to get the same effect, which can mean that one ends up drinking to levels that are harmful to ones short and long-term health. According to medical experts, it is recommended taking regular days off from drinking to ensure one doesn’t become addicted to alcohol. This can have the effect of ‘resetting’ ones tolerance to make it easier to cut back.

The good news is that if you reduce what you drink, its effect on your sex can be reversed. If one wishes to cut down the amount one is drinking, a good way to do this is to have several drink-free days per week.

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