Reducing alcohol: Rx for better health

Drinking alcohol is customary at many social gatherings and celebrations in the United States. You may lead a champagne toast at New Year’s, share a bottle of wine at a restaurant, or have a few beers during the football game on Sunday. In moderation, alcohol may have health benefits for your heart. However, once you go beyond the recommended limits – up to one drink per day for women and two per day for men – the risks associated with alcohol consumption increase very quickly and far outweigh any potential health benefits.

Cutting down on alcohol consumption produces multiple health benefits.

Cutting down on alcohol consumption produces multiple health benefits.

Cutting down your alcohol consumption or quitting completely can improve your health in several ways. If you’ve considered reducing the amount you drink, keep in mind the following health benefits you’ll experience. They may help you stay focused on your goal.

You Will Sleep Better and Have More Energy

Alcohol is not an effective sleep aid. While it may help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep deeply for a short period, it disrupts your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. It’s the time when you dream and researchers think it has restorative effects. The more you drink, the less REM sleep you’ll get, which can lead to daytime drowsiness and trouble concentrating. Cutting back on alcohol will help you sleep better and gives you an instant energy boost.

Your Mental Health Will Improve

Many people use alcohol to unwind, relax or “drown their sorrows.” However, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and can alter the function of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. Long-term use of alcohol can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. Not drinking keeps the nervous system in good shape, and allows antidepressants and antianxiety medications to do their job efficiently.

You May Lose Weight

If you regularly drink alcohol, you’re adding hundreds or thousands of empty calories to your diet. A glass of wine, a beer or a shot of alcohol can have 100 or more calories per drink – and even more for specialty drinks with mixers or craft beers with higher alcohol content. Alcohol has little nutritional value, so those calories do not provide your body with the healthy fuel it needs to function.

Your Risk for Certain Diseases Will Be Lower

Alcohol has a negative effect on many of the body’s organs and increases the risk for certain diseases. It can raise your blood pressure and increase your chances of developing heart disease. It also can damage your liver and increase your risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, liver, breast and colon. By avoiding alcohol, you will be avoiding a potent carcinogen.

You Will Have Fewer Accidents

Alcohol is linked to many different types of accidents. It’s a factor in about 60 percent of fatal burns, drownings and homicides; 50 percent of severe trauma and sexual assaults; and 40 percent of fatal car crashes, suicides and falls. If you don’t drink, you’ll lower your risk for injury and death.

Reducing the amount you drink may be hard to do on your own. Your doctor can help you to identify the resources you will need to make the change.

About Crozer Keystone Staff

Crozer-Keystone Health System’s physicians, specialists and advanced practitioners are committed to improving the health of our community through patient-centered, quality care across a full continuum of health services. Crozer Brinton Lake is Crozer-Keystone’s comprehensive outpatient care facility in western Delaware County, offering primary care, specialty services, outpatient surgery and advanced cancer treatment. Contact us: 300 Evergreen Drive, Glen Mills, PA 19342 1-855-254-7425



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