While the risks and dangers of excessive drinking are well publicized, many people are not aware that even casual or social drinkers are at risk of developing long term health conditions. Regular drinking, even in smaller amounts, can over time lead to health issues like cancer, stroke and heart attack. The body can only process a little bit of alcohol at a time, therefore drinking too often means that it can’t handle the strain.
There are different definitions for safe drinking. The US Dietary Guidelines’ definition of ‘safe drinking’ is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. According the the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, ‘low risk’ drinking is up to 3 drinks per day for women and no more than 7 drinks per week, and 4 drinks per day for men and no more than 14 drinks per week.
So what are some of the health risks that are associated with casual drinking?
Weight gain is a well known side effect of causal drinking, as alcohol has a lot of empty calories. With weight gain come other health problems like low blood sugar, heart disease, as well as depression.
When an individual consumes alcohol, it reduces their body’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially vitamins and folate. Therefore, even casual drinkers can have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Casual drinkers have the tendency to either eat less, or consume more carbohydrates. This makes it difficult for them to manage their weight.
One of the most immediate side effects of drinking is becoming dehydrated. Casual drinkers are not exempt from that, as the body can become dehydrated after just one evening of drinking. When an individual is dehydrated, it affects the abilities of their body and brain to function properly. Dehydration is what causes hangovers.
Heart disease can develop due to casual drinking over many years. Any condition that negatively affects the heart functioning and impairs the blood vessels to the heart, can be defined as ‘heart disease’. An individual who has developed a heart disease can also suffer from a heart attack.
There are many different ways in which the consumption of alcohol is linked with diabetes. An individual who suffers from diabetes can find it very difficult to control their insulin levels when they drink, even if they only drink socially, since drinking can cause blood sugar levels to drop. Furthermore, if the individual has trouble maintaining a healthy level of blood sugar, then they can develop diabetes related diseases like kidney damage and heart disease. On the other hand, if the individual doesn’t suffer from diabetes, they can still be at risk for fatty liver disease, thus increasing their chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes, all due to casual drinking.
Thus it is clear, that even social drinking of no more than 1 or 2 drinks per day for several days in the week can lead to all of the above mentioned side effects. Add to that the other ways that casual drinking can affect an individual’s health and life, such as reacting badly to medications or increasing their chances of getting into a car accident. It is important for casual drinkers to understand that even a small amount of drinking regularly can have a negative effect on their health.
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