If you decided to improve your health this year, it’s time to check your progress. Have you stepped up your workouts? Quit smoking? Upgraded your eating plan?
When you set your goals, did you include cutting back on drinking?
Two in 3 adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Alcohol use is linked to short- and long-term health risks, including high blood pressure and many cancers. The risk grows with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some cancers, the risk increases even with very low levels of alcohol use — a single drink.
To help cut the risk, the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that if alcohol is consumed, it should be used in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day for adult women and two drinks per day for adult men. And the CDC says some people shouldn’t drink at all.
Alcohol Awareness Month
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, an observance that encourages sharing facts about alcohol, alcoholism and recovery. Alcohol is the most-used addictive substance in the U.S. About 17 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. That’s 1 in 12 adults.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can cause death. But people can get better — about 20 million people and their family members are living in recovery.
Health Risks Increase
Long-term drinking can have both a physical and mental impact. The more people drink and the longer they do so, the higher the risk of developing severe health problems.
Cancer: Alcohol is a risk factor for cancers, including mouth, throat, liver and colon. And studies show that the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk for breast cancer.
Heart disease: Heavy drinking can cause heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and sudden cardiac death. Even moderate drinking may boost the risk for irregular heartbeat. That may raise the risk for stroke and dementia.
Liver disease: Swelling of the liver is the first stage of alcohol-induced liver disease. Continued drinking may cause cirrhosis, which may lead to the need for a liver transplant.
Diabetes: Drinking alcohol causes extra risks for those with diabetes. Alcohol adds sugar to your diet. And when drinking, people are less likely to follow their diet or check blood sugar levels.
Brain deterioration: Long-term alcohol abuse can result in impaired thinking or cause mood and behavioral changes.
Women’s added risks: Smaller amounts of alcohol can harm women’s health more quickly than men’s. Women who drink alcohol while pregnant risk giving birth to a child who is mentally disabled and has physical defects.
Set Wise Limits
If you choose to drink, it’s vital to know standard serving sizes. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
It’s important to be aware of how much you’re drinking. Try these tips to avoid drinking too much:
- Measure your servings.
- Stretch out a drink by sipping slowly.
- Try not to drink every day.
Sources: Alcohol Awareness Month, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 2017; Alcohol Use and Your Health fact sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016; 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Edition, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, 2015; Cancer Risk Factors: Alcohol, National Cancer Institute, 2015; Social Media in Communicating Health Information: An Analysis of Facebook Groups Related to Hypertension, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015; The Social Life of Health Information, Pew Research Center, 2014