That figure represents more than 5% of all deaths globally, or one in 20. Most of the people dying from the harmful use of alcohol are men, with an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffering from alcohol-use disorders, according to a high-profile WHO report.
Drinking too much alcohol kills about three million people annually, according to the World Health Organization.
Of all deaths attributed to alcohol, the report says:
- 28% were due to injuries, such as traffic crashes, self-harm and interpersonal violence
- 21% were due to digestive disorders
- 19% were due to cardiovascular disease
- The remainder were due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions
The connection between cardiovascular disease and excessive alcohol consumption is of concern to the American Heart Association, which reports that drinking too much can raise the levels of some fats, known as triglycerides, in the blood. It can lead to high blood pressure, which is one of the risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
“Heavy alcohol drinking also weakens the heart muscle,” says Dr. Hetal Gandhi, an Advocate Medical Group cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “This is known as cardiomyopathy, which means the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. This can lead to congestive heart failure and arrhythmias and can cause sudden cardiac death.”
The WHO report relies on data from 2016. Suggestions in the report for reducing alcohol consumption are aimed at governmental agencies and include boosting taxes and increasing restrictions on advertising.
Among people who consume alcohol, the average amount they drink daily is equivalent to roughly two glasses of wine or a large bottle of beer or two shots of spirits. Worldwide, most alcohol is consumed in the form of spirits, followed by beer, then wine.
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