Alcohol is often consumed to celebrate a special occasion, to engage socially with friends, or to unwind after a long day. And while moderate, responsible drinking can be fine, there are a number of ways that alcohol can negatively impact your body and mind. A Harvard Health study found alcohol consumption poses unique risks to everyone, but especially to women.

Women’s bodies process alcohol at a slower rate, so the effects of alcohol are about twice that of one drink for men. This means that even if a woman drinks less than a man, she can still experience the same level of impairment. The following are explanations as to why women may be a little more sensitive to the effects of alcohol:

  • Body Fat In general, women tend to weigh less than men and their bodies are composed of more fatty tissue than water. Naturally, water dilutes alcohol, but fat retains it, concentrating the effects of alcohol in a woman’s system for a longer period of time.
  • Metabolism Women have lower levels of the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, which break down alcohol in the stomach and liver. Hormonal changes and levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle also have effects on the way alcohol is metabolized.

Differences in body composition provides insight on some of the ways alcohol targets women’s bodies. With this in mind, it is important to be aware of the health risks of consumption. Here are some of the ways alcohol negatively impacts women’s health:

  • Weight Gain and Increased Appetite By suppressing the hunger regulating hormone leptin, alcohol can make you hungrier, and more likely to binge eat due to lowered inhibitions.
  • Losing Focus Alcohol affects the body’s ability to regenerate. On average, the consumption of alcohol decreases the production of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent, meaning the useful cells in your body are killed while the damaged ones are inhibited from repair.
  • Blood Pressure Spikes It may already be self-evident that alcohol causes your blood pressure to rise, but women are especially at a higher risk here. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that women who drank more than 10 times a week had a blood pressure level of 12 points higher than normal– twice the high that is seen in men.
  • Cancer Women who drink alcohol may increase their risk for breast, and neck and head cancers. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who consume as few as three to six alcoholic drinks a week increase their risk of breast cancer by 15 percent or more.

While the risks of alcohol consumption are greater in women than in men, enjoying alcohol in moderation is perfectly fine– just keep your health in mind. There is always help available to women who are worried about how alcohol consumption can affect their bodies. Here at Comprehensive Women’s Health, we have over thirty years of experience delivering quality women’s healthcare. We can answer any questions you may have, and work with you to create a personalized plan for improving your wellness. Call us to schedule an appointment today at (352) 332- 7222.