April is alcohol awareness month, trying to raise awareness about your drinking habits. Alcohol consumption can produce health benefits related to a healthy heart, circulatory system, and psychological health (relaxation). However, alcohol can also negatively affect your health and your relationships with yourself and others when consumed too heavily. Heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver-disease, some types of cancer, and can lead to weight gain. It can also lead to strained relationships and stress.
What are the Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking?
There are many healthy side affects witnessed from moderate consumption of alcohol. Moderate drinking can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gallstones, and can be a great social tonic. Moderate alcohol consumption increases your HDL or good cholesterol. High HDL levels are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also keeps the platelets in your blood from sticking together, reducing clot formation and your risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also linked with a healthier circulatory system. Plus, let’s not forget how soothing a drink after a stressful day can be or how nice it can be to have a drink with friends. These are the social and psychological benefits of alcohol. So as long as your drinking is moderate, you can experience some wonderful health benefits.
Is Your Drinking a Problem?
How do you know when your drinking has gone from moderate to heavy and becoming a problem? While moderate drinking can be beneficial for your health, heavy drinking can have some detrimental, lasting affects on your health and relationships. Your drinking is a problem if alcohol and drinking cause trouble with relationships, work/school, and how you think/feel. If you are at risk, you should take steps to either quit drinking or limit your alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and men ages 65 and older, and two drinks for men younger than 65. Also, talk to your doctor.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?
Alcohol affects almost every organ in your body and heavy drinking can increase your risk of cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast, and weakens your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia. Heavy consumption of alcohol may cause serious and irreversible problems within your body.
Here are some ways that alcohol affects different vital organs:
Brain: Alcohol interferes with communication pathways and leads to change in mood and behavior.
Heart: Alcohol increases risk of stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), and cardiomyopathy (the stretching and drooping of heart muscles).
Liver: Alcohol causes inflammation, steatosis (fatty liver), alcohol hepatitis, fibrosis (formation of excess connective tissue), and cirrhosis (liver scarring).
Pancreas: Alcohol can cause pancreatitis (dangerous inflammation) and blood vessel swelling that prevents proper digestion.
Remember, one cup does not equal one drink and not all drinks are created equal.
Why Limit Your Alcohol?
If you identified as a heavy drinker, limiting your alcohol can help your health and relationships. Limiting your alcohol can lower your blood pressure and your risk of injury, heart disease, stroke, liver problems and some types of cancer. It can also help you lose weight, save money, and improve relationships.
Tips to Limit Your Alcohol:
1) Limit your drinking to 1 drink a day for women and 2 for men
2) Keep track of how much you drink
3) Pick one day a week to not drink
4) Don’t drink when you are upset
5) Avoid places where people drink a lot
Alcohol provides a lot of calories but few nutrients and heavy drinking can lead to weight gain and poor health. Being conscious and decreasing consumption of calorie-filled drinks is a great way to eliminate calories and lose weight. Few people realize how many calories are in their alcoholic drinks and consume more calories than they think. Here is a list to keep you aware and help you calculate the calories from your drinks.
Alcohol Ounces (oz) Per Drink Calories per Drink
Light Beer 12 oz. – 103 cal
Regular Beer 12 oz. – 153 cal
80-proof Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey, Tequila 1.5 oz. – 97 cal
Brandy, cognac 1.5 oz. – 98 cal
Red Wine 5 oz. – 125 cal
White Wine 5 oz. – 121 cal
Champagne 4 oz. – 84 cal
Traditional Martini 2.25 oz. – 124 cal
Cosmopolitan 2.75 oz. – 146 cal
Mojito 6 oz. – 143 cal
Margarita 4 oz. – 168 cal
Pina Colada 9 oz. – 490 cal
So remember, moderate drinking can offer health benefits, but these benefits are lost when your moderate drinking turns heavy. So be aware of your alcohol consumption this Alcohol Awareness Month.