The past few years have been a rollercoaster, and many have turned to drinking more alcohol to cope with these stressful times. But consumption of too much alcohol can lead to many short- and long-term health risks.
Four extremely important organs in our bodies are especially impacted — the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas — and excessive alcohol can even lead to several types of cancer.
Whether or not you have noticed yourself leaning more heavily on the bottle of late, it is important to know and respect your limits to lessen your risk of health concerns.
Some people only drink during celebrations or with friends — otherwise known as social drinking. Even in these cases, it is extremely important to know your short-term limits so that your celebratory night out with friends doesn’t turn into a bigger issue.
Even when drinking socially, alcohol should only be consumed in moderation. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), alcoholic drinks should be limited to a maximum of one daily for women and two for men — in all cases and situations. This moderation also prevents alcohol poisoning, alcohol overdose, and lessens the risk for negative health effects.
This type of drinking is without a doubt better than heavy or excessive drinking, but consuming alcohol in any amount can greatly increase your risk for many health concerns.
Excessive drinking includes binge drinkers and heavy drinkers, along with any drinking by pregnant women or those under the age of 21.
Both chronic heavy drinking and drinking while underage have many very serious short- and long-term risks. Short-term risks include alcohol poisoning, violence, miscarriages or stillbirths, or risky sexual behaviors. Long-term risks may involve a weakened immune system, heart disease, alcohol dependence, mental health problems, or several types of cancers, including of the:
- Colon or rectum
- Throat (pharynx)
- Voice box (larynx)
While alcohol is known to negatively affect our minds and bodies, red wine — when carefully moderated — has been positively linked to cardiovascular health, gut health, control of type 2 diabetes, normalized blood pressure, improvement of some neurological disorders, and may even combat certain types of cancers.
How to Drink Safely and Take Care of Your Health
One of the most important tips for drinking safely is knowing the difference between binge drinking and controlled drinking. Binge drinking is drinking that quickly (usually in about 2 hours) brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher.
Controlled drinking, on the other hand, focuses on setting limits and drinking in moderation while not giving up alcohol entirely. It may also help with treating alcohol use disorder in cases where abstinence does not work.
To be sure you are drinking safely, always eat and hydrate before you consume alcohol to slow its absorption and effects. Remember to not drink when you are tired, stressed, or upset. Do not mix alcohol with other drugs or medicines, and never drink and drive.
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