Alcohol, widely used in various cultures decades ago, is a psychoactive substance. A significant risk factor for over 200 diseases has been linked with alcohol consumption. While many people still stick to the myth associated with alcohol consumption, this article seeks to expose the real facts regarding the intake of alcohol and brain health. Some of the short-term impacts of alcohol consumption on the brain include cognitive dysfunction, impaired judgment, as well as loss of memory, and a lack of coordination. In contrast, some of the long-term effects of alcohol consumption on the brain include several neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as dementia, anxiety, and depression, and even addiction and withdrawal symptoms in some cases.
THE EFFECT OF ALCOHOL ON THE BRAIN
Alcohol impacts your brain health by altering the communication pathway of the brain. Some of the immediate impacts of alcohol on the brain may include difficulty in walking, slurred speech, impaired or blurry vision, etc. This impact may be felt almost immediately and can be managed or resolved when an individual stops drinking. However, persistent use of alcohol can have a long-term impact on the brain, including several neurodegenerative diseases that may be hard to manage.
Here are five facts on how alcohol impacts your brain.
- Alcohol causes impaired cognitive function, which makes it difficult for an individual to concentrate, remember details or even think properly.
- Alcohol can also impair the brain’s motor function, resulting in poor coordination and a reduced ability to control body movements.
- Another major impact that alcohol has on the brain is the change in the chemistry of the brain. Alcohol can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, which may give a temporary feeling of pleasure but result in addiction in the long run.
- The brain structure can also be altered by prolonged and excessive use of alcohol. Some of these changes may include shrinkage of the brain tissues, which can also result in the loss of cognitive function and an increased risk of certain neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
WHO ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE TO ALCOHOL IMPACT ON THE BRAIN?
Before this time, a lot of people firmly believe that females are the most vulnerable to the effect of alcohol use because females have a higher sensitivity to alcohol and also because of their body size as well as their metabolic rate.
However, this may not be entirely true as many other individuals are also at a higher risk of vulnerability to the impact of alcohol on the brain.
- To correct that impression, the list below shows different categories of individuals besides women who are also severely vulnerable to the impact of alcohol on the brain.
- Older adults are also highly vulnerable due to changes in the structural and functional components of the brain resulting from aging.
- Adolescents whose brains are still in the process of development are also vulnerable
- People with a long-standing family history of alcoholism may also be more vulnerable to the impacts of alcohol on the brain, as genetics can also affect the brain’s response to alcohol.
- Individuals with an underlying mental health disorder may also be more susceptible to the impact of alcohol on the brain.
BRAIN HEALTH AND MODERATE DRINKING
While quite several people believe that mindful drinking of alcohol may have a beneficial cognitive effect, others may disagree with these findings. However, some research has shown that low to moderate alcohol intake may be linked with higher mental strength and a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This reduced risk may be associated with the fact certain alcoholic beverages may possess anti-inflammatory properties, which generally help improve blood flow to the brain.
THE TRUTH ABOUT EXCESSIVE DRINKING AND BRAIN HEALTH
- It is important to state that the excessive use of alcohol has no health benefit contrary to what you may have been told and can only result in health challenges. Consistent and excessive use of alcohol can result in mental and memory-related issues and several neurodegenerative diseases.
- The brain, a very complex yet delicate organ, must be kept at an equilibrium with certain chemicals called neurotransmitters for the brain to function properly, which can be severely altered by excessive use of alcohol.
- It is characterized by memory loss or amnesia due to changes in brain function.
- Several mood disorders can also arise from the excessive use of alcohol, particularly anxiety and depression.
- The heavy use of alcohol also leads to addiction and withdrawals that can be severe and life-threatening.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT ALCOHOL ABSORPTION IN THE BRAIN
A lot of people believe that the effect of can be minimized by food intake, and as such, once they have eaten a certain amount of food, they are free to consume a large amount of, which is not true as several factors may influence the extent to which may affect the brain. Some of these factors include:
- The brand of alcohol consumed by the individual
- The rate and speed of alcohol consumption also affect how alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- The body weight and size of an individual also contribute to the absorption rate of alcohol as individuals with a higher body size tend to have a higher blood volume which helps to dilute the alcohol to reduce the blood alcohol concentration.
- The overall health status of the individual.
- The percentage of risk as a result of alcohol exposure before birth.
- The individual’s age and the duration they have been drinking.
- The age and gender of the individual
- Family history, as well as an individual’s genetic makeup, can also influence the extent to which alcohol may affect the brain.
The truth is the effect of alcohol on brain health is complex, and the persistent and uncontrolled use of alcohol is a global health concern. It is, therefore, important that individuals reduce their alcohol intake or abstain from the use, if possible, to help strengthen brain function and reduce the risk of alcohol-related brain damage.
Even withdrawal should also adopt new lifestyle approaches for a healthier life, seek professional help when and where necessary, or even use simple lifestyle journals like Sunnyside to monitor their alcohol intake.
Lastly, understanding the effect of alcohol on the brain is important in promoting your brain health.