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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008

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The Effects of Alcohol

Amount of alcohol in your blood?

The amount of alcohol in the blood is known as the blood alcohol concentration or BAC. Your BAC depends on how much you've drunk and how quickly you drank it. Other important factors affecting BAC are:

Your size and weight If you're small, your blood alcohol volume is obviously less than that of someone who is larger. So the same amount of alcohol will probably affect you more.

Your sex

Women can't drink as much as men. That's not a male conspiracy but a biological fact! Women are generally smaller. They also have proportionately less body water and more body fat - and alcohol doesn't dissolve easily in fat. That's why, drink for drink, women end up with more alcohol in their blood than men.

Your water level

If you're dehydrated, alcohol will have a greater effect than if your body's water concentration is normal. That's why drinking alcohol in summer or after exercise affects you more.

The amount you've eaten

If you drink a unit of alcohol on an empty stomach, almost all of it will be absorbed in an hour. But if there's food in your stomach, the process will be slower and the alcohol reaches your brain and the rest of your body more slowly.

The downside of drinking too much

Heavy drinking, especially on a regular basis, can lead to serious health problems, including:

* Alcohol dependence or alcoholism

* Sexual difficulties, including impotence

* Cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer

* Pancreatitis

* Stomach disorders, such as ulcers

* Mood changes

* Brain damage including memory loss or dementia

* Certain types of cancer, especially breast cancer

* Anxiety, stress, depression, poor concentration

* Increased risk of heart disease and certain types of stroke

* Potentially fatal alcohol poisoning

Even getting drunk occasionally can have serious consequences. It impairs your judgement and can increase risky behaviour, which could result in:

Injuries and accidents

* Unsafe sex, which could result in sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies

* Fights, arguments and relationship problems

* Getting into trouble with the police

Even relatively moderate amounts of alcohol can be harmful sometimes. For instance, when you're pregnant, driving, taking some medications, or doing sports or activities that need judgement and coordination.

 

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