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August 11, 2014
By Nels Seifert, Contributing Columnist








Happy Hour anyone?

It’s no surprise that most people in America go out for a
drink every now and then with friends, colleagues, and/or
significant others detoxing from work or a list of other
possible stressors.

Alcohol consumption is in some ways an American past time,
a recreational activity that has shaped countries, constituted
federal laws to ban it, and has developed into a billion dollar
business since the beginning of the prohibition in the early
20th century.  But how much alcohol do you have to drink to
harm your health? How does alcohol affect your risk for heart
disease, diabetes and other conditions?

Moderate Alcohol Use Has Positive Health Benefits

Times have changed and going out for a drink after work or
enjoying a few cold alcoholic beverages with friends on a hot
summer afternoon is now commonplace.

Moderate alcohol use in older adults has been shown to have
certain health benefits as long as it is done per the outlined
consumption amounts and there are no preexisting conditions
where alcohol is not a sound health decision.

Drinking alcohol in moderation in fact protects your
cardiovascular system,  according to a 2007 study, “Alcohol
and Cardiovascular Health: The Razor Sharp Double Edged
Sword” by Dr. James O´Keefe and colleagues. As the study
concluded:  “These data suggest that alcohol consumption,
like exercise, is most cardioprotective when done daily and in
moderation.”

The French Paradox

If there has ever been a case --no pun intended --- to make
that alcohol is good for you, that case is made by the French.
The French drink a lot of wine. In fact, other than the tiny
country of Luxemboug --- where in fact one of the primary
languages is French --- the French drink more than any other
people in Europe, some 12.7 liters per person per year.
That's 3.3 gallons of alcohol (wine)on average for every man,
woman and child in France.

And yet, the French are among the healthiest people on
earth.  The French have one of the longest life expectancies
on Earth, with French women living the longest of any
women in Europe, over 87 years on average.


What do we make of this persistence of the French to be
healthy despite imbibing gallons of wine each year?  
Scientists are still trying to work that out. Some believe that
the key is that the French drink wine and not beer or hard
liquor such as vodka, whisky or rum?  


Now, the flip side.  There are serious risk factors for those
who abuse alcohol --- binge drinkers and alcoholics.



In no particular order, here are a few serious health
conditions that alcohol abuse can cause:




























Alcohol Linked to Cardiomyopathy-related Heart Failure

Consuming alcohol in a responsible and moderate way is
suggested to have certain health benefits relating to
cardiovascular function , but alcohol abuse can take it to the a
different level.

Heart failure occurs after a certain period of time when the
heart gets weaker and weaker and eventually can no longer
pump enough blood and oxygen throughout the body.
One of the causes of heart failure is cardiomyopathy, a
weakening of the heart over time.

Heart failure may be linked to alcohol-induced
cardiomyopathy, involving dilation in the left ventricle,
according to a 2008 study.  That study,  conducted by Dr. Luc
Diousse and Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, entitled “Alcohol
Consumption and Heart Failure” outlines the negative effects
of long term alcohol abuse relating to heart failure.
The study concluded, “Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is
characterized by left ventricular dilation, increased left
ventricular mass, and reduced or normal left ventricular wall
thickness among patients with a long-term history of heavy
alcohol consumption (5-15 years).”


Alcohol Raises Your Risk for Having a Stroke

Among other cardiovascular risks and health effects, alcohol
abuse has also been found to raise the risk of strokes.
There has been extensive epidemiological research conducted
on the relationship between alcohol consumption and strokes.

How much does alcohol raise your risk for strokes?  A lot.  

Most studies have concluded that excessive alcohol use can
increase your risk of stroke by over 50%.

Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Stroke: a Meta-analysis
(2003) was a study conducted by Dr. K. Reynolds and
colleagues.  That study found that “drinking more than 60 g
of alcohol a day was associated with a 64% increase in the
risk of stroke.”

What's the Magic Number for Your Alcohol Limit?

Again, moderate drinking is fine. This study also showed that
moderate drinkers had less chance of strokes than people
who don’t drink at all, but those who abuse alcohol are at a
higher risk. To put this into context, 60 g of alcohol a day is
about the equivalent of drinking a 6-pack of beer with a 4%
alcohol volume.

This doesn't mean that drinking 5 cans a beer a day is okay.
It's not. It just means that a six-pack a day is way over the
clear line of danger to your health.


Dementia, Amnestic Syndrome, and Wernicke-Korsakow
Syndrome

The excessive use and abuse of alcohol can be attributed to
long term effects in the brain, including temporary memory
loss and in some cases, long term memory loss associated
with dementia, amnestic syndrome, and Wernicke-Korsakow
Syndrome (WKS).

WKS is the depletion and/or lack of thiamine (B1) in the
body. A shortage of thiamine can cause serious long term
health problems.

Some of you may have experienced the loss of a memory
from the night before, or can understand the short term
impairments you might have experience when you’ve had one
too many beers or glasses of wine.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone on the planet that alcohol effects
brain function and that effect could have long lasting
implications. A study conducted by Dr. Markensteiner and
colleagues, Alcohol-induced Cognitive Disorder: Alcoholic
Dementia (2002) suggests that dementia, amnestic
syndrome, and Wernicke-Korsakow Syndrome (WKS) can be
caused by excessive alcohol use. The research states “Alcohol
dementia follows the diagnostic criteria of dementia with clear
evidence for alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction.”

Alcoholic Causes Liver Disease

Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) is a very serious condition and
has become a serious plague in society, especially among
those who have abused alcohol for several years.

Liver disease is associated with cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis,
and is directly correlated with alcohol abuse in America. Liver
disease is primarily untreatable and only a liver transplant can
obstruct the harrowing outcome, death.

It may surprise you to learn that as many as 2 million people
have alcohol-related liver disease. Alcohol kills more people
than cancer.

A study, entitled "Treatment of Alcoholic Liver disease"was
conducted in 2008 by Dr. A. Brave and colleagues. That
study, and others, have established a strong link between
alcohol and liver damage.  It stated that “Alcoholic Liver
Disease (ALD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality
both in the United States and worldwide. In the United
States, it is projected that over 2,000,000 persons have ALD,
and the mortality for cirrhosis with superimposed alcoholic
hepatitis is much worse than that of many common types of
cancer.”

With a mortality rate higher than many common types of
cancer, ALD is one great reason to start monitoring the
amount of alcohol you do consume and think research in
depth to the different effects alcohol may have on your body.

Does Alcohol Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes and its relationship with alcohol consumption
is complex.

Research goes both ways, with some studies pointing to both
positive effects and others showing and negative effects to
risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

A study by Dr. Dolly Baliunas, Alcohol as a risk for Type 2
Diabetes (2009) concluded that moderate, spread out alcohol
consumption could possibly prevent Type 2 Diabetes, a U-
shape finding in both men and women. However, the study
also showed that a high level of consumption on weekends or
binge drinking can raise your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. This
may curb those weekend blowouts or excessive weekend
drinking that you may think is justifiable because it’s your day
off and you can sleep in on Sunday. It’s so important to
understand the balance in which your body can adjust to,
making it more important to stay consistent in your drinking
with moderate “daily” consumption as opposed to weekend
or vacation binging.

Alcohol Causes Brain Shrinkage


That’s right, you read the title correctly, brain shrinkage.

Research conducted by Dr. M. Kubota and colleagues at the
Department of Neurosurgery, Chiba University School of
Medicine, Japan (2001) concluded that heavy alcohol use can
have direct correlation to brain shrinkage as you grow older.
The study examined the frontal lobes of social drinkers using
MRIs and concluded that though the brain natural shrinks as
you age, the shrinkage is much more significant in those who
consume more alcohol than normal. The study noted,” heavy
drinkers were at a higher risk compared with abstainers
(1.80; 1.32-2.46). The contributory rate of alcohol
consumption for frontal lobe shrinkage was 11.3%. Heavy
alcohol consumption seems to exaggerate this shrinkage in
social drinkers. Moderate alcohol consumption does not seem
to affect brain volume.”

There are many reasons to control your alcohol consumption
and abstain from binge drinking or drinking alcohol to the
point where your judgment is impaired. The abuse of alcohol
is a common societal disease that is the cause of many deaths
and acute and chronic diseases in America and, though
prohibition may be long forgotten, it’s important to be
responsible and take care of your physical and mental health.

One tip is to set your money budget before you go out. Take
just enough money with you to buy a certain amount of
drinks.  It’s not a perfect solution but it does help to remind
you when you’ve had enough.

























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Moderate alcohol consumption lowers your risk for heart disease and has other
health benefits.
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