A lot of people like to enjoy an adult beverage from time to time, but as with everything, moderation is key. And because April is Alcohol Awareness Month, now is a time to discuss the health effects of consuming too much alcohol.
We have outlined a few things to consider when thinking about how much you drink in regards to the effects of alcohol on the body.
Start with a Self-Assessment
An estimated 16 million Americans have an alcohol problem, and the severity ranges from mild (in which the individual may not even realize there is a problem) to severe (in which a person’s life may be at immediate risk).
If you want to assess your drinking patterns, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers a free interactive tool that can help you decide whether or not you could benefit from a change in your drinking behavior. This is also a good way to start a dialogue about alcohol use and abuse with friends or family.
Effects of Alcohol on the Body
Stopping drinking reduces the risk of the following diseases and conditions:
- Cancers (including cancers of the breast, mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx and liver)
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Sexually transmitted disease
Drinking can lead to risky behavior. Here are some common things that can occur:
- Slowed reaction time and blurred vision, which can be especially dangerous when operating a vehicle
- Impaired judgment which can lead to risky behaviors
- Loss of control which can result in aggressive or inappropriate actions
Some people might be motivated to stop drinking or reduce their alcohol intake for practical reasons, such as:
- Saving money: You can save money by choosing to drink water, tea or another beverage instead of alcohol. The savings are even greater when you stop buying alcoholic drinks at restaurants or bars.
- Losing weight: Many alcoholic drinks are high in calories. Depending on a person’s drinking patterns, reducing by just one drink a day — even without making any other changes — could result in several pounds lost per month.
How to Cut Back on Drinking
- Here are some quick tips and strategies to help you or others cut down or eliminate alcohol:
- Always remember how much you drink — if you cannot remember, you have had too much
- Do not drink to mask emotions
- Eliminate or reduce the amount of alcohol you have in your home
- Avoid bars, clubs or other places where drinking is part of the culture
- Try challenging yourself to stop drinking for one month. It may help you do a “reset” on your drinking behaviors so it is easier to stop or cut back.
- Seek out the help of a professional or support group
Finally, remember that changing any habit takes time, but it can be easier when a person partners with a friend. Encourage the people you talk with to find a friend who also wants to make a positive change — or be that friend yourself — and help keep each other accountable.