People have been consuming fermented beverages for centuries while debating the advantages and disadvantages. Even now, the debate continues whether alcohol consumption is good for your health or bad.
Even though there is no solid evidence, current reports suggest that moderate drinkers have a longer lifespan than both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers.
Is it healthy not to drink at all?
No amount of alcohol is safe for your health. However, epidemiological evidence shows that light to moderate drinking can be associated with reduced risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and other cardiovascular diseases. Even so, alcohol consumption and its effects depend on the individual and the dosage.
Moderate drinking may be healthy, but not for everyone. Thus, you should not drink at all if you are:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have certain medical conditions and are on medication
- Are recovering or have recovered from alcohol use disorder
- Operate machinery or drive
The effects of alcohol on your body
Ethanol is the base ingredient in alcohol. Ethanol directly affects your:
Brain: Alcohol interferes with how the brain works and looks. This interference alters your mood, movement, coordination, and concentration.
Liver: Drinking affects the liver and may cause liver inflammations such as:
Pancreas: Alcohol activates the production of toxic substances in your pancreas, which may actively cause pancreatitis.
Immune system: Drinking alcohol weakens your immune system making you more prone to diseases and infections. Heavy drinkers are more likely to contract chronic diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis easily than moderate and nondrinkers.
Heart: Extended drinking or drinking too much at once can damage your heart. It may cause:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiomyopathy – abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles
- Arrhythmia – uneven heartbeat
Heavy alcohol consumption can easily lead to addiction and increase trauma and all types of injury.
Alcohol consumption has been associated with long and short-term effects and health risks. These include motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual high-risk behaviors, and high blood pressure, among others.
Are moderate drinkers healthier?
The chances of survival for heavy drinkers are low, on average. Moderate drinkers, on the other hand, tend to have increased life spans.
Moderate alcohol consumption improves your health and reduces the risk of deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases by almost half. Average alcohol consumption has been associated with long life in people with or without a history of other threatening conditions.
In addition, moderate drinkers have a high resistance to diseases and conditions like:
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Stress and depression
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Asthma and lung disease
How to drink in moderation
Drinking in moderation means not exceeding specific amounts of alcohol intake per day. Studies recommend two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less for women. Drinking above moderate levels significantly increases both the risk of short-term effects and the risk of long-term health problems.
If you do not have an alcohol addiction, follow this easy plan for alcohol moderation.
- Don't drink on an empty stomach: Always ensure you have eaten before drinking. Hunger can easily make you drink more alcohol than you need or intend to.
- Avoid heavy drinking situations: if you are on a plan, always avoid heavy drinking situations. It makes it harder for you to stick to your plan.
- Quench your thirst with a non-alcoholic drink first: Thirst makes it easy for you to drink more alcohol than you need. Quenching your thirst with a non-alcoholic drink first helps you become more mindful of your alcohol consumption.
- Hydrate always: Alcohol causes dehydration which leads to hangovers. Always drink a glass of water after every glass or bottle of beverage.
- Take a break: Abstaining from alcohol can change your sleep patterns, help you reset mentally, decrease caloric intake, and make you feel better in general.
Moderate alcohol consumption could help you live longer. If you are a heavy drinker, following the above plan to ease the drinking can be helpful. You can get help from your doctor to help you stick to the plan. Taking a break from alcohol and replacing it with eating healthy food and drinking a lot of water can significantly boost your immunity. While moderate drinking may improve your health, it's still best to be cautious of becoming a heavy drinker.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Age and Ageing: "Alcohol consumption in later life and reaching longevity: the Netherlands Cohort Study."
Alcohol and Alcoholism: "Cardioprotective effects of light-moderate consumption of alcohol: a review of putative mechanisms."
Alcohol Problems and Solutions: "Drinkers Live Longer: Why Does Drinking Increase Length of Life?"
Alcohol Research: Current Reviews: "Alcohol and the Immune System."
American Addiction Centers: "Pancreatitis & Alcohol: Alcohol's Effect on the Pancreas."
American Psychological Association: "Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol."
Critical Reviews in Toxicology: "Toxicological effects of ethanol on human health."
Hancock Regional Hospital: "7 Tips to Help You Drink in Moderation."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits."
The Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction."
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