All the Health and Luck of the Irish to Ye!
Saint Patrick's Day is almost here, and if you plan to commemorate it, chances are your plans include a few drinks. No shame in it - social drinking is an accepted part of celebrating, as well as relaxing and unwinding. A moderate alcohol intake has even been suggested to offer health benefits. And for the most part, folks know when to draw the line and cut themselves off. On the flip side, several people see the holiday as a reason to drink excessively. This is very common, and doesn't necessarily mean that they'll have serious health problems as a result. However, habitual heavy drinking (more than one or two drinks a day or binge drinking on the weekends) generally increases the chances of health problems. Before anything else, we want to emphasize that if there are any health benefits to be gained from drinking alcohol, they are from moderate drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to:
- Cancers including oral, gastrointestinal, esophageal, liver, and breast.
- Elevated blood pressure and triglyceride level
- Depression or suicide
- Miscarriage or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Stroke or heart failure
- Chronic pancreatitis
Alcoholic beverages, including not just wine, but beer and spirits as well, contain a form of alcohol called ethanol. This is the part of the alcohol that health benefits may stem from. While moderate alcohol consumption has not been proven to improve overall health, it has been linked to:
- Increased HDL ("good") cholesterol and lowered risk of heart attack or disease
- Artery plaque and clotting reduction
- Improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced risk of developing diabetes
- Relief from mild stress
- Reduced Alzheimer's-related plaque buildup
- Decreased chance for ulcers or gallstones
- Bone protection through the silicon in beer
- Reduced stroke risk
Again, these benefits are not proven, but worth consideration, especially as motivation to reduce high alcohol intake. Whenever you drink any amount of alcohol, consider the following tips to protect your health, not to mention ward off a killer hangover:
- Drink water and eat before and during alcohol consumption to slow the absorption of the alcohol into your blood.
- Choose between a drink and dessert, as both tend to be high in calories.
- Drink alcohol with a mind to your personal and family history. High risk for stroke, liver disease, or alcoholism should be drinking deterrents.
- Be careful of alcoholic interference with any medications you may be taking.
- Take a daily multivitamin to ensure you're getting the essential nutrition your body needs to handle the alcohol.
There's nothing wrong with having a few drinks, and if that martini can help to boost your health, all the better! But take a moderation tip from the Irish, who have been sipping their nightly whiskey for generations, and understand that "A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig!" Happy Saint Patrick's Day!