While you know heavy drinking can lead to liver disease and drunk driving, you may not realize long-term heavy drinking is also a known contributor to anemia, various kinds of cancer, heart disease, depression, dementia, nerve damage, gout, and other health conditions. Because of these risks, current health guidelines recommend women of any age and men over the age of 65 limit themselves to one drink a day and men under 65 limit themselves to no more than two drinks a day.
Though drinking too much may put your health at risk, drinking a little alcohol may actually be good for you. It seems contradictory, but it’s all about moderation. (Keep in mind that women must weigh the pros and cons when it comes to drinking alcohol. Even moderate amounts may increase their risk of developing breast cancer.) Here’s how alcohol does the body good.
Good for Your Heart
Too much alcohol may harm your cardiovascular system, but a drink here and there has been shown to help your heart. This is mainly because alcohol increases your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Higher HDL means lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. Alcohol also works to prevent blood clots from forming and blocking arteries, the chief cause of heart attack and stroke. And the antioxidants found in beer and wine help to lower blood pressure, another major risk factor for heart disease.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Compared to those who don’t drink, healthy adults who drink in moderation have up to a 30-percent lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes. This is due to the fact that alcohol stimulates production of a hormone responsible for improving insulin sensitivity. Increased sensitivity to insulin means your body does a better job at processing glucose, so there’s less sugar in your blood and therefore less risk of diabetes.
Protects against Colds
Get a cold every winter? Nonsmokers are known to get fewer colds if they regularly drink a moderate amount of alcohol, especially red wine. One study showed that by drinking 8 to 14 glasses of wine a week, you can reduce your chances of getting a cold by 60 percent. Most likely this health benefit is due to the high antioxidant content of red wine.
Known to be quite painful, gallstones are hard, tiny pebbles made of cholesterol found in your gallbladder. Want to lessen your chances of developing gallstones by one third? Drink a little alcohol. Because alcohol increases the amount of good cholesterol in your blood, it helps prevent gallstones from forming in the first place.
Lessens Likelihood of Dementia
Need another reason to enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner? Losing your memory due to Alzheimer’s or dementia may be prevented or delayed by drinking an alcoholic beverage or two a day. In fact, studies show moderate amounts of alcohol can lessen your chances of cognitive impairment by 23 percent. Scientists believe alcohol may somehow strengthen brain cells against the forces that cause dementia.
Helps You Live Longer
Studies have been done on the effect of drinking on life expectancy. Curious findings reveal moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. Even more curious is the finding that those who don’t drink at all have a higher mortality rate than heavy drinkers. The reasons proposed for why moderate drinkers live longer include the heart-healthy benefits offered by alcohol, the increase in sociability by those who drink, as well as the stress-relieving benefits that come with enjoying a drink or two.
Anybody care for a drink?
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