We all (well, probably most of us) love to unwind with a cocktail or glass of wine after a long day at work or school, or knock back a few beers while enjoying a fun evening with your girlfriends or significant other, right? Alcohol can help us relax and de-stress, and even add a little fun to our weekends. And while most doctors agree that it’s fine to drink a moderate amount of alcohol on occasion, it’s important to know that it can have some pretty serious effects on your body if taken out of hand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), because women are typically smaller than men, our bodies absorb alcohol more quickly, absorb more of it, and take longer to break it down and metabolize it. So when a woman drinks the exact same amount as a man, the alcohol will have a more profound effect on her body. And because of this, alcohol affects our overall health more than it affects men’s. Binge drinking, which is probably what a lot of us do when we’re out partying with friends, is defined as 4 or more drinks during a single occasion (5 or more on average for men). Binge drinking, when done frequently, can increase risks for the following:
- Reproductive Health
We all know that if you’ve got a bun in the oven, you have to pass on the booze. There is no accepted amount of alcohol that has been deemed safe for pregnant women to drink. Fetal alcohol syndrome, which can occur when pregnant women imbibe, can cause learning disabilities, bone/joint deformities, heart defects and hyperactivity. Drinking while pregnant can also raise the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. Excessive drinking can cause fertility issues and menstrual cycle disruptions. Not to mention that over-indulging can lead to poor decision-making regarding sex, which can lead to STDs or unwanted pregnancy.
- Liver Disease
Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver, and just being a woman puts you at higher risk! Cirrhosis is when healthy tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, and the liver can’t function properly. It’s the 12th leading cause of death (by disease). Having more than two drinks a day can increase the risk of cirrhosis.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer (the second most-commonly diagnosed cancer in women), and the more you drink, the higher the risk. It also puts you at higher risk for cancer of the esophagus, throat, liver and colon.
- Sexual Assault
This is a no-brainer, but binge drinking puts you at higher risk for sexual assault, especially among college-age women. This is a huge problem on college campuses across the country, too. Obviously, the risk is greater when both assailant and victim have been drinking.
Excessive alcohol use was the cause of 88,000 deaths in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010. That’s a lot of people dying from a preventable cause. And… if all that isn’t enough (though it should be), alcohol can have a LOT of calories, which can really pack on the pounds. If you’re looking to drop some weight, think about this: “regular” beers have between 150-200 calories per 12 ounce bottle, whereas “light” beers have about 100. Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and tequila pack between 80 and 100 per 1.5 ounce serving, whereas a 5 ounce glass of wine has around 100 to 120 calories. Mixed drinks like daquiris and pina coladas can have as many as 400 to 500 calories! That’s like drinking an entire meal.
I’m not trying to be a buzzkill. I love a glass of Riesling or a cherry vodka with soda water and lime (try it; you’ll love it and it’s one of the lowest calorie alcoholic beverages) when I’m out with friends. But I only drink socially, and at the very most, I’ll have NO MORE than three drinks in one night. Usually two. I just want my fellow fangirls to know the risks of excess drinking, and… THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK! Be well!