Lewis Gale Physicians August 31, 2017

There is no doubt that drinking large amounts of alcohol is bad for your health. There is, however, some evidence that limited alcohol consumption may have benefits. Given that, the American Heart Association recommends that adults who drink do so in moderation.

Here are some considerations if you plan on continuing to drink alcohol:

  • Certain people should not consume any alcohol, such as pregnant women, people with liver disease, or those who are on certain medications.
  • Moderate intake is considered to be 1 drink per day if you are a woman and 1 to 2 drinks per day if you are a man. A 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor is considered one drink.
  • Periodically review your use of alcohol with your doctor. You may need to change your drinking behavior if you begin to consume too much or experience harmful consequences as a result of drinking alcohol.
  • Never drink alcohol if you are going to be driving or operating machinery.

Researchers believe some alcohol may help protect the heart. People who drink moderately have heart disease less often than non-drinkers. Alcohol appears to increase HDL, the good form of cholesterol. Some other benefits may include:

  • The alcohol or some other substance in alcoholic drinks may prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together. This, in turn, will reduce clot formation and the risk for heart attack or stroke.
  • Flavonoids and other antioxidants in red wine may protect the heart and arteries.

However, there are negative health effects associated with alcohol intake as well.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Alcohol Use Disorder is a spectrum of alcohol-related issues that include alcohol misuse, abuse, and dependency. It is not solely characterized by the amount of alcohol that is consumed, but rather the effects drinking habits have on social, physical, and mental health.

AUD includes:

  • Binge drinking— The most common pattern of misuse in the United States. Personal harm, and unintended injury and death, are the most common problems associated with binge drinking. Despite its dangers, binge drinking typically does not lead to abuse or dependence.
  • Alcohol abuse— A pattern of drinking that continues even though it affects relationships, jobs, or family life.
  • Alcohol dependence— Marked by cravings to drink. These cravings may be accompanied by withdrawal symptoms when drinking is stopped.

AUD can have lasting effects on individuals, families, and society. Uncontrolled, AUD also can lead to legal troubles and serious health complications.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop AUD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing AUD. AUD is highest among young adults aged 18-35 years, but AUD can occur at any point during a lifetime. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

The most common risk factors for AUD include:

  • Gender— AUD is more common in men than in women, but the incidence of dependence in women has been on the rise in the past several years. Women tend to have problems later in life than men, but the condition has a faster progression in women.
  • Genetics— Many studies link genetic factors to AUD. This includes how the body processes and responds to alcohol. Genetics can also make you prone to dependence but, for most people, it is only one piece of a larger puzzle.
  • Family History— AUD tends to run in families. Rates of problem drinking are higher among men with one or more affected parent than among men without affected parents. Though these links are present with women, it is not as strong as with men. Having these associations does not guarantee that AUD will be present in all family members, if at all.
  • Culture and Ethnicity— Cultural, ethnic and social norms influence alcohol use. Traditions also play a part in how alcohol is used. This may result in patterns of problem drinking that exist in some cultures more than others. For example, dependency rates are higher in Europe and the United States where alcohol consumption is common and socially acceptable. In American culture, alcohol is often used as a social lubricant and a means of reducing tension. Binge drinking is becoming more popular, resulting in more social problems. In contrast, certain religious groups who abstain from drinking alcohol have minimal dependency rates.

Higher rates of AUD also are related to peer pressure and easy access to alcohol.

Personality and Mental Health Factors

Certain personality traits may increase risk for AUD. These may include high self-expectations, low frustration tolerance, feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty in one's roles, needing an inordinate amount of praise and reassurance, and having a tendency to be impulsive and aggressive.

AUD also is associated with many mental health disorders and addictions:

  • Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Smoking
  • Illicit drug use
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

To discuss alcohol’s benefits and risks given your medical and family history, or if you believe that you may be dependent on alcohol, please consult your physician. Denise Dillingham, PA-C, is available to discuss the symptoms and develop a plan to potentially reduce your alcohol consumption. To schedule an appointment, call the office at (540) 344-3020 or book an appointment online below.

Book An Appointment Online with Denise Dillingham, PA-C