you feel confused about alcohol use? On one hand, you know that
it’s dangerous, makes you feel unhealthy, and can lead to
serious conditions. On the other hand, you’ve heard that moderate
alcohol use is beneficial for your heart and health. So, what’s
the truth when it comes to alcohol use? Well, that all depends.
It depends on a lot of things, including your age, lifestyle, health
habits, genetics and, most of all, how much alcohol you consume.
Over the past decade or so, researchers have been finding a link
between moderate alcohol use and health benefits, particularly the
reduction of heart disease including heart failure and coronary
artery disease. The key to this data is the definition of the term
moderate alcohol use. That means one drink per day for women and
two drinks per day for men. If you have a tendency to over drink,
especially on a continual basis, then the health risks of alcohol
will far outweigh these benefits. Furthermore, if you’re not
a drinker this doesn’t mean you should start drinking. Heart
disease can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle including a well
balanced diet and exercise, and no smoking. Evidence suggests other
health benefits associated with alcohol, but nothing is completely
proven, and most research is in preliminary stages.
The question of which type of alcohol is most beneficial is controversial.
But it’s commonly believed that red wine is best because it
contains a high amount of antioxidants as well as reservatol, an
anti-clotting agent. Some researchers believe that beer, wine and
liquor have similar beneficial properties. It’s important
to remember that the definition of one drink of wine, liquor or
beer varies greatly in volume.
Did you know women are at a greater risk for developing long-term
health problems associated with heavy drinking? Women also tend
to get drunk faster, and feel the short-term effects of alcohol
consumption stronger than men. There is much speculation as to the
exact reason for this. Some believe this is due to the higher amount
of water in a man’s body. Therefore, alcohol is more highly
concentrated when it enters a woman’s body.
The short-term effects of alcohol consumption are:
- Distorted vision and hearing
- Altered perception
- Loss of coordination
- Impaired judgment
- Weakened immune system
- Sexual side effects
Most notably, however, is the danger that happens when drinking
is mixed with driving. Drinking and driving is a deadly combination.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how much experience
you have as a drinker or a driver. Accidents involving alcohol are
prevalent, and the consequences are never worth it. This effect,
however, is always preventable. Even if you have only had a small
amount to drink, your reflexes, coordination and judgment may be
Alcohol is not for pregnant women. Alcohol can cause serious brain
damage and lifelong behavioral and learning disorders in your baby
if you drink when you’re pregnant. Drinking while pregnant
can also cause fetal
alcohol syndrome among other serious and irreversible conditions.
If you are trying to get pregnant, you should stop drinking. The
best and safest option is no drinking whatsoever while you are trying
to get pregnant and while you’re pregnant.
Drinking more alcohol than one drink a day over an extended period
of time, especially over a lifetime, will cause certain dangerous
health effects. These include:
- Liver disease, including cirrhosis of the liver
- Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas
- Psychological and emotional problems
- Brain damage
- Increased blood pressure
- Cancer, especially of the mouth, esophagus and digestive system
- Breast cancer
Alcohol has also been said to interfere with the way your body
absorbs and digests nutrients needed for energy and health. This
means that some of the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients
you consume may not be used by your body if you are overdrinking.
Also, people who drink a lot often skip meals and get a portion
of their caloric intake from nutrient-less alcohol. Don’t
forget if you’re watching your weight, alcohol is very high
in carbohydrates and calories.
Alcohol also has many dangerous reactions with medications. In fact,
over 150 medications react with alcohol to put your health at risk.
Read all labels very carefully, especially when taking over-the-counter
medications (OTC). Your doctor should talk to you about the effects
of alcohol use when prescribing any type of medication. Taking aspirin
with alcohol can lead to stomach bleeding and taking Tylenol®
(acetaminophen) with alcohol can lead to liver damage. Even if you
have a headache, refrain from taking these OTCs if you’re
Many women drink continually without ever being diagnosed for alcoholism.
Alcoholism and problem drinking are two different issues. Problem
drinking is characterized as a drinker who tends to get in trouble
when drunk, can binge drink and become drunk, and has some of the
symptoms of alcoholism, but is not dependent on alcohol. Alcoholism
is mainly characterized by a strong, physical dependency on alcohol.
Alcoholism is a chronic condition, which means it is incurable.
Some symptoms of alcoholism include:
- The tendency to drink alone, when you are sad or angry
- Drinking interfering with your work, your family, or your relationships
- Blacking out while drunk
- Physical symptoms of withdrawal without drinking, such as nausea,
insomnia, shaking and sweating
- The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to feel
drunk or “high”
- Not being able to stop once you start to drink
Alcoholism does run in families. That means that if you have a
close relative who has alcoholism, you are at an increased risk
for developing alcoholism. That doesn’t mean just because
your relative is an alcoholic, you are going to be an alcoholic,
too. If you’re aware of this risk, then you can take the necessary
precautions, like drinking only in moderation, to avoid developing
If you feel like you have any signs of alcoholism, remember that
even though no “cure” is available for alcoholism, treatment
is available. So much help is out there for you. Your friends and
family might be very concerned for you, and if you talk to them
or to a counselor or professional, you can find help. Support groups
like Alcoholics Anonymous have a track record of success and are
completely anonymous. You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed
about alcoholism. With help, you can overcome the negative effects
of alcoholism on your life and begin to prevent frightening long-term
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