Women, just like men, may enjoy a drink when they are celebrating with friends and family. However, more and more studies show that alcohol can have greater ill effects on women than it does on men. In fact, alcohol can pose unique risks for women and can have effects on women that might put them at greater risk for concerns related to their physical and psychological well being. This article will explore some of those effects and what women can do to manage their alcohol intake.
Research indicates that women tend to develop alcohol-related illnesses more quickly than men, even after drinking smaller amounts. For instance, women who drink more than roughly 7 drinks per week have greater risks for cancer, hypertension, stroke, suicide, being in a car accident or experiencing another trauma-related incident. Furthermore, drinking at a quick pace increases a woman’s likelihood that she will go on to develop an addiction.
A woman processes alcohol more slowly than men. Because of this, one drink can have twice the effect on a woman than it does for a man. Also, women tend to advance more quickly to addiction than men. For instance, from the time a woman has her first drink to the first alcohol related problem to the need for addiction treatment takes a significant shorter time for a woman than it does for a man. Furthermore, alcohol has certain biological effects on a woman. These are:
There are higher concentrations of alcohol content in a woman. A woman tends to have less water and more fatty tissue on their body versus men. Because fat retains alcohol in the body, a woman tends to store higher concentrations of alcohol in her body and for longer periods of time. With long-term drinking, this process alone could expose her brain and other organs to more alcohol.
Women have fewer enzymes that break down alcohol. There are two enzymes that the body uses to break down alcohol. These are alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, and women have less of them. This means then that women absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream than men.
Women’s hormones can affect the way her body interacts with alcohol. There are frequent changes of hormones in a woman’s body because of her menstrual cycle. These hormones can have an effect on how a woman metabolizes alcohol.
In addition to these physical health risks, women tend to be vulnerable to the effects of alcohol in other ways. Research shows that both men and women who have been physically or sexually abused as children tend to be more prone to drinking or using drugs later in their life. Because women are more likely to experience abuse in childhood, they are more vulnerable to drinking or using drugs in their lifetime, versus men who have experienced abuse.
Because of these various ill effects of alcohol on a woman, it is suggested that women (and men) drink at a manageable rate – or remain abstinent. Moderate drinking for a woman is considered to be no more than seven drinks per week and no more than 3 per day. However, a woman’s experience of alcohol will depend upon her weight, physical health, genetic makeup, family history, time since she last ate, and her age.
If you are a woman who regularly drinks, and especially if you’re experiencing alcohol-related concerns, contact a mental health provider for assistance and to prevent any further harm.
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