One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to cut down their consumption of alcohol. But by the second week of February, 80% of people have abandoned the resolutions they made on January 1st. There are lots of health benefits that come with cutting back (or quitting) when it comes to alcohol. While some evidence supports moderate wine intake being healthy, it's not 1 of the 5 ways to keep your heart healthy. Here’s a reminder of why taking a break from alcohol can be so good for your health!
1. You’ll Decrease Your Risk of Cancer.
Thousands of research studies around the world have confirmed that alcohol increases the risk of oral, esophageal, uterine, breast, and colon cancer. This happens for several reasons. First, when alcohol is metabolized by the liver, it results in a toxic, carcinogenic substance called acetaldehyde. Also, alcohol prevents the normal metabolism of vitamins and minerals that can help protect the body against toxic compounds and promote healthy cell repair. Alcohol also increases estrogen levels, which explains why it’s been linked to an increase in uterine and breast cancers.
So what’s the healthiest amount of alcohol to consume to avoid the risk of these cancers? According to decades of research, the answer is "zero."
2. You’ll Save Calories.
Another health concern with alcohol is that it contains lots of empty calories. A pint of beer has an average of 200 calories. A glass of wine has 120-150 calories. And cocktails can contain more than 400 calories per serving! While "having a few drinks" can seem harmless, in reality, it can quickly add up to thousands of unnecessary calories, leading to rapid weight gain. If you switch to non-alcoholic alternatives, your calorie count and your waistline will thank you!
3. You’ll Sleep Better.
Some people like to drink alcohol in the evening because it helps them fall asleep faster. While it’s true that alcohol makes you drowsy, the fact is that alcohol can cause you to fall asleep, but it doesn’t help you stay asleep. In fact, it disrupts your sleep cycle and decreases the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative REM sleep. This leads to insomnia, fitful sleep, daytime fatigue, and drowsiness. By enjoying a non-alcoholic nightcap, you’ll actually sleep longer and better.
4. You’ll Avoid Alcohol-Related Accidents.
One million U.S. drivers are arrested annually for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and alcohol is involved in more than 10,000 traffic fatalities every year. By driving sober, you’ll avoid causing an alcohol-related car accident, and you’ll be more alert to deal with other drivers who may be dangerous on the road.
Alcohol also increases the risk of falls, fires, homicides, and suicides. Abstaining from alcohol means you’ll be dramatically lowering your risk of injuring yourself or others.
5. You’ll Think More Clearly.
Alcohol has negative short-term and long-term effects on your brain. In the short term, people who abuse alcohol experience slow cognitive function, impaired reflexes, impaired memory, and even blackouts and unconsciousness. Long-term alcohol consumption leads to chronic memory issues and decreased memory capacity, as well as dementia. By avoiding alcohol, you’ll be able to think more clearly, recall information better, execute tasks faster and concentrate longer.
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(Note: If you’ve been drinking heavily, consult a medical provider before you cut back, or consider seeking inpatient treatment.)
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant