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Alcohol -The Risks

When deciding what topic to blog this month, I elected to focus on a darker subject. At our practice we try to focus on healthy living including diet and exercise. In my opinion, one of the key forms of a healthy diet is limiting/lessening the bad foods/drink as much as increasing the good foods/drink. My subject this month is alcohol, here are a few facts/stats about alcohol. Let me preface by saying, I’m not on a soapbox stating that alcohol is bad and that we should reenact prohibition. Just that, smart/intelligent choices can often be the difference between a healthy life and serious morbidity and potential death. This is a list of the most dangerous holidays (according to Forbes), when considering alcohol related deaths.

6. New Year’s Day

5. Christmas Day

4. Memorial Day

3. Independence Day

2. Labor Day

1. Thanksgiving Day

I was rather shocked to see that Labor Day trumped New Year’s and Memorial Day. Super Bowl Sunday might have been #1, but it technically isn’t a national holiday. Human beings have been drinking alcohol for 10,000 years. A lot of the discussion has been over the type of alcohol, the amount drank and the frequency. Moderate drinking, especially red wine is noted to be good for the heart and circulatory system. From the reading I have done, whether you drink hard alcohol, wine or beer-- -too much is too much. Any health benefits are long erased when one chooses to over indulge. Furthermore most of the health benefits from alcohol can be mimicked, even improved upon with a good diet and exercise-- -with essentially no side-effects.

“While heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents. Heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, harm an unborn child, increase the chances of developing breast and some other cancers, contribute to depression and violence, and interfere with relationships. Alcohol’s two-faced nature shouldn’t come as a surprise. The active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, a simple molecule called ethanol, affects the body in many different ways. It directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” (1)

Some chilling statistics about alcohol (excessive drinking) are:

  • Between 2006-2010 approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life was lost each year in the United States-- -in essence shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. o 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years were related to alcohol.
  • On a global perspective alcohol causes approximately 3.3 million deaths every year (or 5.9% of all deaths), and 5.1% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol consumption.
  • 18.2 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse/alcoholism. The take-home point here is that if everyone who drank could limit themselves to an appropriate amount-- -this amount is certainly up for debate, let’s just say not drinking to excess, whatever that number/amount is, we probably wouldn’t need as many cardiologists, gastroenterologists, mental health professionals, and substance abuse counselors. Even more important 88,000 more Americans would be returning to their families on an annual basis.

Have a safe/wonderful month-- -for that matter, enjoy each and every day. Ideas and concepts drawn from the following websites: 1. 2. 3. 4.

About the author

Craig Kantack