While many of us love a glass of wine with dinner, new research warns that booze-loving women are risking much more than a morning-after headache—their wine habit might actually contribute to an early demise.  A study conducted by researchers in Germany tracked the drinking habits of 4,000 adults for 14 years. The results revealed the annual death rates among women diagnosed with alcoholism was 4.6 times higher than women who didn’t drink excessively—a difference was more than double the risk for alcoholic men.

The average lifespan among women who abused alcohol was only 60, around 20 years younger than that of the general population.  Women on average have less mass and less body water than men, which creates a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood (blood alcohol level) and increased impairment from drinking the same amount. Women also have a higher liver volume to body mass ratio, so alcohol is expelled into the blood stream much faster than for men.  The female body is less capable of metabolizing alcohol so it makes sense that these women are worse off than men because it takes fewer years for our bodies to suffer the negative effects of alcohol abuse.

These effects include the increased risk of liver disease, breast cancer, brain damage, and heart disease. The hefty calories of alcoholic beverages also increase the danger of becoming overweight or obese, which can carry additional implications.  Here are some scary facts about what alcohol abuse does to our bodies.

  • Alcohol is absorbed into the blood from the stomach and intestines and passes through the liver before circulating around the body. It is the liver that has to deal with the highest concentrations of damaging chemicals and explains why the liver receives the most damage.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer rises by six per cent for each extra alcoholic drink she has, on average, every day.
  • Alcohol boosts production the “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, but when you stop drinking, these levels plummet.
  • Alcohol can also cause brain cells to swell. Permanent disruption of dopamine levels can cause depression and increases the risk of stroke by 42 per cent, according to research.
  • Binge drinkers beware-if someone drinks until they pass out, the parts of the brain that control breathing are affected. In extreme cases, the brain shuts down and the drinker lapses into a coma.

Generally speaking, more than three drinks on a given day each week is considered “high-risk” behavior.  The standard serving of wine is 5 ounces so it may be time to pull out the measuring cup and remind ourselves of what that really looks like.  The amount of alcohol that can be considered “moderate” is up to one drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. More than that is considered “heavy drinking” and creates blood alcohol levels that are extremely toxic and damaging to the body.  Paying attention to how much and how often you drink can lengthen your life span so maybe it’s time to take notice.