You’re not the first person to dismiss a warning about alcohol consumption by saying you only drink casually. But casual drinking is often the beginning to a much longer alcohol history. Many health problems begin as a result of alcohol consumption, so if you’re ready to take your health seriously, your drinking habits must be up for consideration. Living a healthy lifestyle is so much more than a well-balanced diet and regular exercise. While both of those are crucial elements, in order to significantly reduce your risk of disease, cancer, and many other health problems, you’ll need to limit your alcohol intake.
There are two categories of alcohol consumption that are major warning signs for a drinking problem. Unhealthy alcohol use and heavy alcohol use. Both are defined by the number of days you binge drink. A man is said to binge drink when he consumes five or more alcoholic beverages in two hours. For a woman, consuming a minimum of four drinks in two hours constitutes binge drinking. Heavy alcohol use is defined by binge drinking at least five times in one month.
Unhealthy alcohol use identifies someone who does not follow the limitations set by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Institute recommends that men between the ages of 21 and 64 consume a maximum of four drinks in a 24 hour period and no more than 14 drinks in one week. Women and men over the age of 64 should be limited to three drinks in one day and no more than seven drinks in one week. Drinking is not advised if you plan to operate heavy machinery or drive a vehicle. If you are pregnant, take medication, or have a medical condition that is affected by alcohol, it’s important to avoid it altogether.
The longer you drink unhealthy levels of alcohol, the greater your risk for many health problems. In fact, unhealthy alcohol use is currently the third leading cause of death in America. Alcohol consumption has a direct link to heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Alcohol begins to affect your central nervous system with only a few drinks. You may become uncoordinated, have difficulty balancing, or slur your speech after consuming alcohol. If your habit continues, you run the risk of damaging your frontal lobe, the part of your brain that impacts your judgment, emotional control, and memory. Drinking heavily over time also increases your risk for liver disease and ruins your body’s ability to regulate insulin properly. Along with raising your risk for many types of cancer (including colon cancer), alcohol leads to weight gain, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and damages your digestive system.
It’s important to talk to your physician about your risks for various diseases and illnesses. Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force advised all primary care physicians to check on their patients’ drinking habits. Screening for unhealthy alcohol use can prevent unwanted health problems. At your next office visit, talk to your doctor about alcohol screening. Your doctor is equipped to help you manage your drinking habits by recommending counseling and other necessary tools. If you have noticed a pattern of unhealthy alcohol consumption in your life, talk to your doctor today. At Carolina Digestive Health Associates, we are dedicated to helping you reach—and maintain—your health goals.
If you want to protect your digestive system from illness and disease, schedule an appointment with one of our GI specialists today. We’ll help you evaluate your risk for disease as a result of alcohol use. Before you brush off your alcohol habits as “casual drinking,” you need to consider the long-term damage your consumption may be causing.