What are the negative effects of alcohol on a woman's health?

Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
For women, at more than one drink a day, you increase your risk of cancers of the breast, head and neck, and digestive system; hypertension; stroke; and car accidents. At higher levels of consumption, the risk of pancreatic and liver disease and neurological disorders rises.

Women are more sensitive to alcohol than men because their bodies produce less of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach before it's absorbed into the blood. Moreover, women's bodies have a lower proportion of water (which dilutes alcohol) to fat (which retains it) than men's. Alcohol therefore remains in the female system at higher concentrations for longer periods of time, and has more contact with the brain and other organs. At the same level of alcohol consumption, women become intoxicated faster, develop addiction earlier, and suffer health damage sooner than men.

Alcohol's effects become more insidious as women age, because the body's water-to-fat ratio declines over the years. Even though you may be drinking the same amount as when you were younger, each drink packs a bigger wallop. Women may be more likely than men to develop alcohol-related problems that are mistakenly attributed to aging, such as depression, sleep disruptions, poor eating, heart failure, and frequent falls. Women over 65 are also more likely than men to use medications for anxiety and depression, which can have dangerous interactions with alcohol.

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Alcohol & Health

Alcohol & Health

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol daily, such as one to two 12-ounce beers or 5-ounce glasses of wine, was once thought to offer certain health benefits, particularly for heart health. However, those benefits have increasingly ...

been questioned, and experts have become more aware of the risks, including liver disease and several types of cancer. And excessive drinking is known to lead to serious health problems, such as strokes, dementia, pancreatitis, high blood pressure and dementia. Factoring in all the risks of benefits, some researchers now conclude that no level of drinking is completely safe. 

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.