Are women more vulnerable to alcohol-related diseases than men?

By admin
13 June 2014

Moms surely deserve to relax after a long day taking care of everyone’s needs ahead of their own, but if you do so with an alcoholic beverage, you might want to read this.

The World Health Organisation recently released its 2014 global report on alcohol and health which indicated that while South Africa has a large portion of women who abstain from alcohol (73,7%), there are patterns of risky drinking which make women more susceptible to certain diseases.

According to the Harvard Medical School (HMS), women are much more vulnerable to alcohol’s harmful effects and are more likely to develop alcohol-related diseases compared to men. HMS also found women tend to abuse alcohol and other substances more than men in order to self-medicate problems such as depression, anxiety and stress, or to cope with emotional difficulties.

Alcohol may also raise a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.  HMS reports that a woman’s overall lifetime risk of breast cancer is almost nine in 100 if she drinks no alcohol. Two drinks a day heighten the risk to just more than 10 in 100 while six drinks a day increase the risk to about 13 in 100.

Due to the way women metabolise alcohol, their blood alcohol content levels can be much higher than men even if they consume the same amounts. Women metabolise alcohol slower than men as they have less alcohol dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.

In terms of recommended drinking guidelines, women can use the below table:

Women shouldn’t exceed 2 -3 units* of alcohol a day

Type of alcoholLevel of alcoholQuantityUnit
Beer4%500 ml (one draught)2
Spirits37,5%25 ml (one shot)1
Wine12%175 ml (one medium-sized glass)2

*A unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol

It takes about an hour to process one unit of alcohol (length of time differs depending on height, weight and gender).

Sources: niaaa.nih.gov/publications, helpguide.org, drinksmarter.org, health.howstuffworks.com, drinkaware.co.uk

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