Alcohol Health Risks for Women

Greater Risks Than Their Male Counterparts

Worried Woman
Alcohol Risks Greater for Females. © Getty Images

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

There have been multiple scientific studies that found women more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol on many levels and in many different ways. The researchers have not always agreed as to why women are more affected by alcohol abuse, but many have suggested that because a woman's body contains less water that the average male, alcohol's effect is simply more intense.

Here are few of the ways that alcohol affects women more than men. Compared to men, women who drink alcohol:

  • Get more intoxicated sooner
  • Have increased blood-alcohol content quicker
  • Become dependent or addicted quicker
  • Develop alcohol-related health problems sooner
  • Get heart muscle damage with less alcohol consumption
  • Develop alcohol liver disease after drinking less
  • Develop quicker and more extensive brain damage
  • Are at higher risk for getting cancer
  • More likely to have a fatal auto crash
  • Are at greater risk for developing mental illness

Higher Risk for Serious Medical Conditions

Many studies have found that 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.

See also, Women at Higher Risks for Serious Medical Consequences.

Other Health Problems Caused by Drinking

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 risks 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.

Heavy Drinking Can Cause 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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