Alcohol & Health

Alcohol & Health

Alcohol & Health

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol daily, such as two 12-ounce beers or two 5-ounce glasses of wine, offers some health benefits, especially for the heart. It can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, lowers your risk of developing gallstones, and possibly reduces your risk of stroke and diabetes. Anything more than moderate drinking can lead to serious health problems, however, including strokes; pancreatitis; cancer of the liver, pancreas, mouth, larynx or esophagus; heart-muscle damage; high blood pressure; and cirrhosis of the liver. 

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    Avoid water sports after drinking alcohol, because alcohol consumption impairs judgment and increases risk-taking activity. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, half of all water recreation deaths involve the use of alcohol. Swim only in designated areas and always wear a life preserver when in a boat. You may feel fine, but in cold water it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in and zap your strength. Never operate a boat or vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
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    Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels affect everyone differently. Generally, at .05 BAC, you may display exaggerated behavior and have loss of small-muscle control (focusing your eyes, for example), impaired judgment, lowered alertness and a release of inhibition. The physical effects of a .05 BAC involve further reduced coordination and ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering an automobile and a reduced response to emergency driving situations.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    First of all, the RealAge (physiologic age) age-reducing effect of alcohol consumption begins only when a person reaches the age at which the risk of cardiovascular disease increases: after menopause for women, and forty to fifty for men.

    Second, the antiaging benefits of alcohol apply only to some people. Therefore, you would need to weigh your risks and decide whether or not alcohol consumption should be part of your diet. You would also need to determine if you could consume alcohol in moderate amounts, considering your own genetic and social risks of developing alcoholism, liver disease, or cancers.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    The connection between alcohol and reduced arterial aging -- the so-called "red wine factor" -- was first observed in France. The southern French, with their traditional diet heavy in fatty cheeses, butter, and red meats, had rates of cardiovascular disease that were surprisingly lower than would have been predicted. The hypothesis was that all the red wine the French used to accompany their saturated-fat-laden food was helping to protect their arteries from fatty plaque buildup. The hypothesis has now been modified. The French do not consume more saturated and trans fat than Americans, because the French use nine-inch plates, and, more important, eat small servings. Americans use eleven or thirteen-inch plates, and our portions are almost twice the size of French portions. And that's only our first serving: We may have two or three. Also, Americans eat a lot of trans fats, and, until the last few years, this was rare in France.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    No one knows exactly how alcohol retards or reverses arterial aging. It appears to prevent clotting by decreasing the rate of platelet aggregation, meaning that the platelets don't stick together as fast as they normally would. Also, alcohol appears to prevent the oxidation of fat that leads to accumulation of fatty plaques along the walls of the arteries. Alcohol promotes health of the endothelium, the layer of cells that lines the arteries and helps promote proper blood flow. In test-tube studies, alcohol decreased inflammation in the endothelial (lining) cells of arteries. Although some may be better than others, all types of alcoholic beverages help reduce the level of atherosclerosis. All alcohol causes an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (healthy) cholesterol levels.
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    Mounting evidence now suggests that not just red wine but any alcoholic beverage helps protect us from arterial aging. When it comes to reducing your physiologic age, all alcoholic beverages seem to have the same effect: 4 ounces of wine is the same as one 12-ounce can of beer, which is the same as 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Moderate and regular consumption of alcohol reduces the risk of heart attack by as much as 30 percent, making your RealAge (physiologic age) 1.9 years younger.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    People at high risk of cardiovascular disease because of a family history of heart attacks or because of signs of developing atherosclerosis will get the most age reducing benefit from a drink a day. In contrast, people at risk of alcohol-related diseases should avoid alcohol altogether. Smokers and those with a family history of alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatic cancer, or other alcohol-related illnesses are also strongly urged to avoid all alcohol consumption.
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    A , Internal Medicine, answered
    The liver is the principle site of metabolism of alcohol and as such remains at the highest risk of damage -- and aging -- from alcohol use. Liver scarring from use of alcohol (cirrhosis) can cause considerable aging. In some urban areas, it's the fourth leading cause of death for individuals twenty-five to sixty-four years of age. Cirrhosis of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) can cause a person to age even faster than many types of cancers. Because cirrhosis of the liver causes irreversible structural damage, there are few treatment options for the disease once it reaches an advanced stage. Damage to the liver also appears related to a higher risk of cancer.