Do you have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer or two after work with friends, or do you find yourself drinking two or three glasses of wine and more bottles of beer than you can count?
Alcohol can be a tonic – or toxic. If you’ve enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner throughout the years or the occasional cocktail at a party or beer after work with friends, you’re a moderate drinker. For you, alcohol delivers benefits: In more than 100 studies, moderate drinkers enjoyed a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in heart attacks, ischemic (clot-caused) strokes, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death and death from all cardiovascular causes. Why? Alcohol in moderate amounts raises levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and discourages the formation of small blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It may even protect you against type 2 diabetes and painful gallstones.
But if you drink to excess on a regular basis alcohol can be a poison. Women who regularly consume two or more drinks a day and men who regularly down three or more are at higher risk for liver damage; pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers including those of the liver, mouth, throat, Larynx, and esophagus; High blood pressure; and depression. Women, who are more sensitive to alcohol’s inebriating effects and its long-term health effects, may develop heart disease, brittle bones, an even memory loss. Just two drinks per day can, over time, raise your odds for breast cancer. In a study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, women who followed a two drink a day routine for 20 years and were still drinking still had a three times higher risk for hormonally sensitive breast cancers than nondrinkers.
Several studies have found a higher risk of prostate cancer among men who consume a lot of alcohol or who have been longtime drinkers. Too much alcohol can pack your liver with fat and can lead to a reversible liver problem called alcoholic hepatitis or to irreversible scarring called cirrhosis. The list continues: If you’ve been drinking to excess for years, you may need screen and treatment for thinning bones or an enlarged heart. Alcohol can also age your brain, making memory and thinking problems worse.
By cutting back now can you reverse the damage already done? For the most part. Soon after you cut back or quit, your digestion will improve your stomach won’t have to cope with the irritation of caused by the alcohol and the excess stomach acids it triggers. You’ll sleep more soundly. Your blood sugar will be lower and steadier. Your blood pressure may fail towards a healthier range. Even you brain will bounce back if you cut back or stop drinking. In a study by the University of California, San Francisco, researchers found that alcoholics who stayed sober for nearly seven years performed as well as non-alcoholics on brain function tests. Even if you have liver damage, cutting back on alcohol and eating a healthier diet could help your liver regenerate itself to some degree.
Here are some tips to follow for cutting back on excess drinking;
Stick with healthy limits. That’s two or less alcoholic drinks per day for men, and one for women. Health dangers begin to rise for people who drink more than that.
Reserve Alcohol for meals. You’re more likely to slowly sip a beer or nice glass of wine if you’re enjoying it along with a good meal. At parties or before you eat, stick with iced tea, water or sparkling water with a splash of lemon or lime.
Drink for flavor, not to get drunk. For a teenager, feeling drunk might seem novel and cool. As a mature adult, there is no sound reason ever to get drunk. If you discover that you are drinking for the effects of the alcohol – be they to escape a bad day, give you courage in a new situations, or merely to be “one of the gang’ – Stop immediately. Work hard to find a healthier coping mechanism.
If you can’t stop, acknowledge the addiction. If you can’t stick with a healthy drink limit, if you drink secretly, or if you need more alcohol to get the same “drunken” effects, it’s time to get help. You may have an alcohol-use disorder. Talk with your doctor and contact a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous for the support you’ll need to make a healthy change.
Take health screenings for bone density and cancers seriously. Drinkers should talk with their doctors about whether they need more frequent screenings for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colon.
Already have liver damage? Get a liver-health plan. Your doctor should discuss a high-calorie diet to help your liver regenerate. You may also need medications for related health problems including high blood pressure, bleeding blood vessels, fluid retention and itching.
So enjoy that one glass of wine with dinner on occasion. There are notable health benefits. Can't stop after one? You may want to follow the provided tips.
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