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Alcohol and Your Health: Risks Overshadow Benefits

May 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Lifestyle

Ajibola Abdulkadir

Ajibola Abdulkadir | Contributor, F2FA

May 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Lifestyle

alcohol

 

Do you enjoy a drink every now and then? Are you one of those that have replaced the proverbial apple a day with daily drinks instead? If you have, then this post is for you. Allow Face2Face Africa to offer you valuable information on how your drinking is affecting your health.

SEE ALSO: How To Keep Yourself Malaria-Free

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Alcohol and Its Benefits

Regardless of the type — beer, wine, or spirits — drinking alcohol can actually be good for you. This is why scientists have long promoted the benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol. It has been found that the alcohol component of these drinks help the heart by lowering cholesterol levels and increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) in circulation, reducing the risks of heart attacks and stroke. Alcohol has also been found to improve insulin sensitivity in overweight persons, thus reducing their risk of diabetes.

Alcohol Abuse

Drinking too much alcohol, though, can take a very serious toll on your health — irrespective of whether it is on a single occasion or by binging. In fact, here are specific ways alcohol affects your body:

Heart

Even though certain amounts of alcohol have been found to be heart-healthy, drinking a lot of it over a long period of time or even too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems like irregular heart beats, high blood pressure, stroke, and even disorders of the heart muscle itself.

Brain

Alcohol interferes with the nerves in the brain and their communication with each other, affecting the way the brain works. This interference is responsible for mood and behavioral changes with drinking, making it difficult to think clearly and move in a coordinated way.

Liver

Heavy drinking also takes a toll on the liver, and can usually lead to a variety of problems and ailments like fatty liver, hepatitis, and liver cirrhosis.

Pancreas

Alcohol can make the pancreas produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to diseases that prevent the proper digestion of food.

Mouth, Throat, Breast & Liver

Drinking too much alcohol has been found to increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, breast, and liver.

The Immune System

Too much alcohol weakens your immune system, making your body a perfect target for lots of diseases — some of which you would not normally contract easily. It is easier for chronic drinkers to get diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. As a matter of fact, taking a lot of alcohol in a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even for up to 24 hours after getting drunk!

Fetuses

Drinking while pregnant can serious problems in the unborn baby, including brain damage. It is therefore safer for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant not to drink.

 Related Alcohol Issues & Problems

Other health problems associated with alcohol include sleep disorders, depression, and sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex. Heavy drinkers also have problems treating diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.

Outside these effects, frequent heavy drinking is also linked with personal problems, such as losing jobs and even relationship troubles. Drinking too much also increases your chances of being injured or even killed. Alcohol has been pointed out to be a factor in a lot of injuries and fatalities. For example, it is responsible for about 60 percent of fatal burn injuries, drownings, and homicides; 50 percent of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and fatal falls.

When To Avoid Alcohol Use

Unfortunately, the risks of alcohol consumption far outweigh the possible health benefits, and in certain circumstances, drinking is an absolute no-no. Those who shouldn’t drink include:

• Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant

• People that have been diagnosed as alcoholics

• People with health conditions, such as liver or pancreatic disease, ulcers, heart failure, and other heart diseases

• People taking medications that can negatively interact with alcohol

• People who are at risk of developing cancer

The Good News!

Alcohol is not in anyway tied to human survival, so you certainly don’t have to drink. If you do, though, it is best to do so in absolute moderation. If you currently don’t drink, don’t start drinking for the possible health benefits, because that’s just what they are: “possible,” and they do not outweigh the risks.

If, however, you have been drinking and you want to curb your habit, here are a few strategies you can adopt on your way to a healthier you:

1. Keep track of how much you drink. You can make a note of each drink just before you take it, e.g. in your phone notepad. This helps you monitor how much alcohol you consume and can help you make a decision to slow down.

2. Set goals. Decide how many days a week/month you want to drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days and stick to this decision.

3. Pace yourself. When you do drink, pace yourself by sipping slowly. Have no more than one standard drink per hour. You can even make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water, soda, or juice.

4. Always eat food. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eating food helps the alcohol get absorbed in to your system more slowly, minimizing its effects.

5. Find alternatives. Instead of drinking, fill your free time by developing new, healthful activities, hobbies, and relationships or renewing ones you’ve missed. Also look for healthful ways to deal with certain moods and social situations you’d normally count on alcohol for.

6. Avoid “triggers.” If certain people or places make you drink even when you don’t want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking. You can decide to keep little or no alcohol at home if that also poses a temptation.

7. Plan to handle urges. Understand and accept that the urge to drink will come so make “get-away” plans well in advance. When an urge hits, you may want to remind yourself of your reasons for deciding to not drink, and have somebody you trust that you can talk the urge over with.

8. Be able to say, “No.” More often than not, you’ll be offered a drink at times when you don’t want one or when you’ve stopped drinking completely. Have a polite, convincing “no thanks” at your fingertips. The faster you can reject these offers, the less likely you are to give in. Hesitation will only give you time to think of excuses to accept and have “just one drink.”

The bottom line in all of this is to put your health first when you see that glass of wine or bottle of beer or shots of vodka.

Stay healthy, folks!

SEE ALSO: When To See Your Doctor About Those Headaches

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