Mother’s drinking during pregnancy causes a child exposed to alcohol with many different effects, including hyperactivity and attention span problems, deficits in learning and memory, problems with social and emotional development. The most serious effect of drinking by a pregnant mother is fetal alcohol syndrome (fetal alcohol syndrome – FAS).
Children with FAS have a characteristic facial deformity syndrome, growth inhibition, significant learning and / or behavioral problems. However, children exposed in the prenatal period to contact with less alcohol may also have learning and behavior problems. Therefore, no threshold has been set below which no fetal damage occurs. For this reason, according to the recommendations of the Minister of Health, it is safest for pregnant women to remain abstinent.
One in eight American women develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Some data suggest that drinking alcohol may increase the risk of this disease. Although the risk is relatively small, the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption should be compared with the risk of cancer. This is especially true for women who have a family history of breast cancer and who appear to be particularly vulnerable to it, even if they do not consume much alcohol. Similarly, postmenopausal women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol are more at risk if they use hormone replacement therapy, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer.
ALCOHOL AND OLD WOMEN
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The cessation of ovarian function during menopause and the accompanying decrease in the production of steroid sex hormones in the ovaries means not only the formation of specific symptoms and symptoms, but also the loss of the protective effect of estrogens against osteoporosis and coronary heart disease. Alcohol consumption affects the health of postmenopausal women in two ways – directly through the effects of alcohol on organs such as the liver, brain and gastrointestinal tract, and indirectly by changing the blood level of sex steroids that affect the risk of disease . Whether the pattern of drinking or the amount of alcohol consumed determines whether alcohol has a beneficial or harmful effect on a woman’s body.
The number one cause of death in American women is coronary heart disease. Every third American woman dies because of it. Based on several studies, it can be assumed that before and after menopause, women who drink low to moderate amounts of alcohol may have elevated levels of estrogen and its metabolism products that defend against coronary heart disease. This disease is indeed rare until menopause, apparently because it is protected by an abundance of estrogens. After menopause, however, her risk increases, approaching that of men.
Much of the epidemiological data strongly suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in both sexes. Although the exact mechanisms of this interaction remain unclear, it is known that alcohol positively influences risk factors and conditions associated with this disease such as lowering LDL – “bad” cholesterol and increasing HDL – “good” cholesterol, as well as reducing blood clots and viscosity platelets – small cells that play an important role in the formation of blood clots. On the other hand, however, it is clear that heavy drinking can damage the heart.
Osteoporosis is based on low bone mass, increased bone fragility and susceptibility to cracking. Almost half of women aged 50 or older have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime. By the age of about 35, people reach the “peak bone mass” and at that moment their bones are strongest. After the age of 35, women lose 0.5-1% of bone mass each year. However, during menopause, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, the percentage of skeleton lost each year increases to around 3-7%.
Based on some epidemiological studies, it can be assumed that drinking from low to moderate amounts of alcohol may be associated with increased bone mineral density and reduced risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.
However, this effect was not found in animal studies in which the amount of alcohol consumed and other lifestyle-related factors were monitored. However, it has been clearly demonstrated that heavy alcohol consumption worsens bone health and increases the risk of osteoporosis, reducing their density and weakening mechanical properties. These effects are particularly striking in young women whose bones are still developing, but chronic alcohol consumption by adults can also harm bone health. In addition, animal studies suggest that the damaging effects of early, continuous contact with alcohol cannot be reversed, even after stopping drinking.
Other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can also increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Alcohol drinkers are 75% more likely to smoke, while smokers are 86% more likely to drink. The coexistence of these two habits significantly increases the risk of disease.
Menopause is the strongest risk factor for developing osteoporosis in women.
Previous studies have shown that postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy protects against bone loss and greatly reduces the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. The Women’s Health Initiative’s extensive study of the risks and benefits of strategies to reduce the risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and fractures in postmenopausal women has nevertheless shown that when the benefits of hormone replacement therapy contrast with the risks of other diseases such as cancer , this therapy is not beneficial even in women at high risk of fracture. Other factors, such as strength exercises and increased body weight, have a positive effect on bone health.
Memory and brain function
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among older people. It is characterized by progressive changes in cognitive ability, memory and mood. Women seem to be more exposed to it than men, although it is possible that this is due to a longer life span. Heavy drinking is known to cause memory deficits. It can also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in both sexes, especially women, as they are more susceptible to alcohol-related brain damage than men. There are currently no data that suggests that moderate alcohol consumption also has a negative effect on brain function. Some researchers are even convinced that moderate drinking can even protect blood vessels in the brain, just as vessels in the heart protect against coronary artery disease.
Combining alcohol with medicines
Negative interactions with alcohol include over 150 prescription and over-the-counter medications. Older women may be particularly sensitive to their effects. Although people over 65 account for only 12% of the population, they consume 25-35% of all prescription drugs. Therefore, it is particularly important in this group to pay careful attention to alcohol-drug interactions.
Putting research results into practice
Studies provide information on many aspects of women’s alcohol consumption, including ethnic drinking patterns, gender differences in the impact of genes on the risk of alcohol-related problems, and women’s greater vulnerability to the health effects of heavy drinking: addiction recovery gonline.
The most important issue is that doctors, especially those involved in the prevention and treatment of alcohol-related disorders, but also those dealing with general healthcare, should be aware of how drinking alcohol can affect a woman’s health. Patients drinking alcohol or their knowledge of how alcohol affects their well-being can significantly affect whether or not they can be given effective medical care. Therefore, every woman must be helped to balance the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol and find the right measure for her.