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Alcohol Health Risks for Women

Greater Risks Than Their Male Counterparts

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Updated May 22, 2014

Women who abuse alcohol, or even occassionally drink to excess, face greater risks to their health than their male counterparts.

As noted in a previous article, women who drink get drunk quicker than men, even taking into account the difference in body weight. But there is also evidence that they become addicted faster than men and suffer the consequences of abuse-related illnesses sooner than their male counterparts.

Alcohol increases a woman's risk of developing serious illnesses and an increased risk of heart disease, liver disease, ulcers, reproductive problems, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, memory loss, and other illnesses caused by substance and alcohol abuse.

The effects of alcohol on the liver are more severe for women than for men. Women develop alcoholic liver disease, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis and hepatitis, after a shorter period of time than men. Proportionately more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do alcoholic men.

Other Health Problems

In the "late stages" of alcoholism in women, they also develop hypertension, anemia, and malnutrition much quicker than alcoholic men, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that a woman's risk of breast cancer rises with the amount of alcohol regularly consumed. Drinking moderately or not at all can reduce the chance of getting breast cancer.

The study showed that women who drink two to five alcoholic drinks each day, were 41 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than nondrinkers. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risk of several digestive-tract cancers.

These health risk are even greater for older women. Women are more likely than men to start drinking heavily later in life, and many times their alcohol abuse goes undiagnosed.

Reproductive Problems

Menstrual disorders have also been associated with chronic heavy drinking, which can lead to fertility problems. If a woman does get pregnant and continues to drink, it is not her health only that can be effected.

The alcohol in the blood is carried into the baby's bloodstream. Because the baby is still developing, consuming alcohol can lead to a miscarriage. It can also lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects birth defects, which are irriversible.

In fact, the dangers of drinking while pregnant are so great, the March of Dimes recommends that women stop drinking before trying to become pregnant.

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