Genetics Put Women Who Drink At Higher Risk for Liver Disease
A new study out of Houston Methodist Hospital reveals that women who drink alcohol are more susceptible to liver damage than men because of physical and chemical differences between the female and male body.
The study showed that more women than men are being afflicted by cirrhosis of the liver from the same intake of alcohol. Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver don’t often appear until after the liver has been extensively damaged. Women are unknowingly damaging their health by drinking what they may believe is a minor amount of alcohol compared to their male counterparts.
Greater Risk in Women
Two alcoholic drinks can affect a woman the same way that four alcoholic drinks would affect a man, according to Dr. Howard Monsour, chief of hepatology at Houston Methodist Hospital. Alcohol usually filters through the body and affects women more rapidly than men. Not only could this put them at greater risk for sexual abuse, but it puts them at greater risk for health problems.
Alcohol disperses less and produces a higher concentration in the smaller stature of women. In both men and women an enzyme in the stomach converts alcohol to acetaldehyde and then metabolizes it to water and carbon dioxide. But in women this alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme is not as active, allowing more alcohol to enter the blood stream and damage the liver.
Heredity Plays a Role
Women already have a greater risk of getting cirrhosis of the liver by drinking too much alcohol, but for some women the risk is high even if they are not drinking large amounts of alcohol. According to Dr. Monsour, between 20 to 30 percent of Americans are at risk for cirrhosis of the liver because of their family genetics. This puts both men and women at greater risk.
Cirrhosis of the liver is a silent affliction. Left untreated, those who suffer from it may eventually need a liver transplant.
A woman may believe that limiting the number of drinks she has at social functions will help prevent her from having health problems, but if her family has a history of liver disease she must seriously limit her alcohol consumption, maybe even quit drinking altogether. How much is too much? Dr. Monsour says that even just one drink a day could eventually damage the liver of these women who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
Present Preventions for the Future
During the holidays friends and family gather at social occasions where alcohol flows. When the glass empties, the host tries to fill it once again. For some people these get-togethers create fond memories. For others, these socials may initiate a craving for certain alcoholic beverages that lasts past the holidays and throughout the year.
When a woman knows her family history, her personal alcohol limits, and the facts about the detrimental health afflictions caused by alcohol, she will have a much better chance of avoiding liver damage from drinking alcohol. For women whose family genetics are at risk for cirrhosis of the liver, some choose to completely restrict themselves from alcohol.