In the United States alone, alcohol is a factor in 10% of all deaths of working adults. While alcohol is one of the world’s most consumed beverages, there’s definitely a dark side to it. If you’ve recently found that your casual glass of wine has become two or three every other night, or if you’re restocking your beer fridge more often than usual, it could be time to make a change.
Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, but the prevalence of overconsumption is worrying. In fact, you could be drinking too much and not even know it.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies binge drinking as 4 or more drinks consumed in one session for women, or 5 for men. Heavy drinking is classified as 8 drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks for men.
If you find yourself in either of these categories, a lifestyle change could be in order. Cutting out alcohol can be difficult, but the health benefits could convince you that it’s the right thing to do.
The Long-Term Health Risks of Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Short-term risks of alcohol can range from motor vehicle crashes and falls, to risky sexual behaviors. The long-term risks are also significant.
Binge and heavy drinking can lead to chronic conditions like liver disease, hypertension, and heart disease. Consumption of alcohol can increase your chances of developing colon, liver, mouth, throat, and breast cancer.
Alcohol also impairs the mind and can increase the risk of developing dementia. Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to depression and anxiety. Your relationships could deteriorate, affecting your work and home life.
There’s also the fact that alcohol is highly addictive. Even if you’re bordering on the binge or heavy drinking classification today, you could soon lose control of the situation. Alcohol dependence is a progressive condition that can develop over time, and you could be deep into addiction before you even realize it.
Ultimately, the decision to quit drinking is deeply personal. If you’ve already experienced health, relationship, or mental problems related to alcohol, then the decision should be relatively easy. Even if you aren’t at a stage where alcohol has caused noticeable problems, you can still get significant benefits from abstinence.
6 Benefits of Quitting Alcohol Today
There’s no better motivator than prolonged health benefits. Whether you are trying to lose weight, improve mental cognition, or simply reduce your risk of disease, quitting alcohol can have a huge upside.
1. You’ll Reduce Accident Risks
The likelihood of being involved in a vehicle crash, falling, and drowning are all increased when under the influence of alcohol. Quitting could help you to dodge accidents. Alcohol is also a key factor in many homicides, suicides, sexual assaults, and domestic violence.
Alcohol impairs judgement and removes inhibitions. Even consuming more than one drink within an hour can have a noticeable impact on brain chemistry and physical response times. Abstaining reduces many of the risk factors that could lead to personal injury and injury of others.
2. Your Sleeping Patterns Will Improve
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption can increase alpha waves in the brain. While alcohol could set you off to sleep quickly, it actually results in restless sleep that is disrupted or of poor quality. You may have noticed this in the past. If you’ve ever had an early night after a glass of wine or beer, but then felt unrested in the morning, alcohol was likely the culprit.
People who struggle with insomnia or even anxiety-related sleep problems should avoid alcohol. Even if you haven’t noticed disruptions to your sleeping patterns, quitting could make you feel more alert and energized during the day.
3. You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Developing Cancer
The National Institute of Health has found in studies that even moderate drinking can significantly increase the risk of cancer.
• Moderate or heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of oral cavity, larynx, and pharynx cancers by up to 2.6x.
• Light drinkers have a 1.4x higher chance of developing breast cancer than those who abstain. Heavy drinkers have a 1.6x higher risk.
• Heavy alcohol consumption effectively doubles the chance of developing liver cancer in both males and females.
• Colorectal cancer risks are increased up to 1.5x with moderate and heavy alcohol consumption.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and in the developed world. Reducing or eliminating alcohol intake is one way to reduce the chances of developing cancer.
It’s important to note that some studies have shown alcohol to decrease the risk of some cancers. Early studies are sometimes used to promote light consumption of alcohol as being ‘healthy’. While it’s true that alcohol is associated with a decreased risk of kidney cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma, the increased chance of other more common cancers outweighs the benefit.
You should never consume alcohol as a means to improve your health.
4. Your Skin Will become Healthier and More Radiant
Alcohol takes a physiological toll on your body. Moderate and heavy drinkers often age much quicker than people who abstain or only occasionally consume alcohol.
When you drink, blood vessels under your skin dilate and cause flushing and redness. This can exacerbate conditions like spider veins. This dilation is temporary in occasional drinkers, but it can become permanent in those who regularly consume moderate or excessive amounts of alcohol.
Alcohol is a diuretic, flushing fluid from the body. Dry skin, rashes, itchiness, and general redness can all remain for hours after consuming alcohol. Scientists have also found that alcohol interferes with a hormone that helps your body to reabsorb water. This means it can take days to become properly hydrated after drinking. This takes a toll on your skin.
Abstinence can be an effective way to prevent wrinkles, lines, and general signs of premature aging.
5. You’ll Reduce Your Caloric Intake and Potentially Lose Weight
If you are struggling with body weight, quitting alcohol could be an effective way to shed pounds and work towards your health goals.
Consider the calories that are in some of the most popular alcoholic drinks.
• A glass of Champagne: 96 calories.
• A glass of Red Wine: 125 calories.
• Glass of White Wine 121 calories.
• Straight vodka shot: 96 calories.
• Martini cocktail: 215 calories.
• Tequila shot: 104 calories.
• Mojito cocktail: 169 calories.
• Margarita cocktail: 254 calories.
• Rum shot: 97 calories.
• Whiskey shot: 105 calories.
• 12 oz. of Beer: 145 calories.
Start to add these calories up and you can see a problem emerging. Even three glasses of wine after dinner could contribute as much as 375 calories to your daily intake. These calories come from both the alcohol itself, and from sugar. Alcohol consumption can spike insulin levels and could lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
Alcohol doesn’t just add to your caloric intake, it can also cause you to eat more than you normally would. Poor decision making under the influence of alcohol will lead to low-quality food choices. Your body will also crave sugar and fat the day after drinking alcohol, which could lead to binging on high calorie foods.
Moderate and heavy drinkers could see significant weight improvements after removing alcohol from the diet.
6. Cognitive Performance Could Improve
Long-term alcoholics often suffer from cognitive impairment. This affects the way they think, troubleshoot, and process information.
Occasionally binging or drinking heavily does not make you an alcoholic, but you could already be doing damage to your brain. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that even casual social drinkers have cognitive deficits when compared to people who don’t drink at all.
Alcohol can lead to acute amnesia, loss of motor skills, ‘cloudy’ thinking, and general intellectual decline. Regular consumption can also lead to depression and anxiety.
Overall, if you want to protect your brain and your mental health, abstaining or only occasionally drinking alcohol is the best way to do it. Making a lifestyle change today could put an end to the damage that is occurring.
Little to Lose and Everything to Gain
Choosing to quit or drastically reduce your alcohol consumption is a big decision. The hardest thing to overcome will be the change in your social interactions.
If you want to protect your health, reduce the risk of disease, improve your skin, and even lose weight, then abstinence is something that you should consider. At the very least, cutting down your alcohol intake to less than 4 drinks per week could noticeably improve your health.