The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that nearly 14 million Americans abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. Alcoholism is a serious disease, characterized by an individual’s dependency on alcohol. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, chronic, excessive alcohol consumption is associated with serious health problems including liver disease, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
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The liver breaks down alcohol and excretes it from the body. Consuming too much alcohol can overwhelm the liver, resulting in liver injury. The American Liver Foundation states that excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the liver’s normal breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Fatty liver disease, alcohol hepatitis and alcohol cirrhosis are the three types of liver disease caused by alcohol consumption. Fatty liver disease occurs in almost all individuals who drink heavily, according to the American Liver Foundation. In fatty liver disease, the liver contains a build-up of fats cells. Alcohol hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver. The American Liver Foundation states that up to 35 percent of heavy drinkers will develop alcohol hepatitis. Alcohol cirrhosis is a life-threatening disease in which normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver after about 10 years or more of drinking, according to the American Liver Foundation.
Liver cancer is defined as the growth of malignant tumors within the liver tissue. More than 80 percent of liver cancer cases are linked to cirrhosis of the liver, according to the American Liver Foundation. Individuals who develop liver cancer due to cirrhosis of the liver usually have had a long-term infection of hepatitis B and C, are smokers or are obese.
In March 2005, the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" published the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study, which found men who drank on a regular basis were at greater risk for developing an irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that causes the heart to pump an insufficient amount of blood to the rest of the body, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. The study found that men who consumed moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol were more prone to develop atrial fibrillation than their counterparts.
The Better Health Channel suggests alcohol can cause brain damage because it has a toxic effect on the central nervous system, interferes with the absorption of vitamin B1 and can cause dehydration, which may lead to the wastage of brain cells. Alcohol can cause injury to the brain, especially when misused, leading to Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment. Individuals suffering from ARBI may experience problems with memory loss, cognitive function and physical coordination. The Better Health Channel suggests individuals with ARBI may have trouble remembering things day by day, while others may have trouble remembering past skills, knowledge or information.
Alcohol negatively impacts bone, causing it to become less dense, leading to osteoporosis. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, excessive alcohol consumption interferes with the balance of calcium and the absorption of vitamin D, as well as increases the release of parathyroid hormone. These factors reduce body calcium reserves and the ability to absorb calcium, which is an essential nutrient for healthy bones.