According to a recent survey, over 70 per cent of individuals over the age of 18 in the United States report drinking with some frequency. And of those individuals most would likely support the statement that the occasional drink doesn’t affect their health. But is that really the case? If you truly understand the effects that alcohol, even the occasional drink, has on your health and the benefits that abstinence can offer, you’d likely be a little slower to pick up that next cocktail.
The Effects of Alcohol
Reportedly, drinking in excess has a more severe impact on your overall health. However, alcohol has a number of effects on your body, even if you only drink occasionally.
As soon as alcohol enters your bloodstream, it begins to impair your brain, altering its communication pathways and changing the way it looks and works. This is why many individuals notice a change in their effect, cognitive function, and even coordination with just one or two drinks. Not only that, but alcohol also negatively affects your stomach and digestive system. It irritates your stomach lining and causes a buildup of stomach acids, which can lead to stomach ulcers and poor nutrient absorption.
Alcohol also impacts your heart. Even just one night of excessive drinking can throw the electrical signals to your heart off and cause you to have an irregular heartbeat. If you continue, these conditions can actually weaken the heart, reducing its ability to pump and affecting every part of your body.
Not to mention, if you are a frequent drinker, alcohol can contribute to a number of health concerns, including:
- Fatty liver
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Certain types of cancer
- Chronic disease
- Weakened immune system
Benefits of Dropping Alcohol
With a better understanding of how alcohol negatively affects your health, it’s likely already clear that cutting alcohol out of your life is beneficial. The benefits, however, go beyond merely avoiding the negatives. Dropping alcohol is the best health choice you can make for a number of reasons. In fact, one study found that individuals who abstained from alcohol for just five weeks were able to:
- Reduce their overall body weight by 2%.
- Lower their cholesterol by 5%.
- Reduce their blood sugar levels by 16%.
- Decrease liver fat by 15%.
Not only that, but the same individuals were also able to:
- Improve their sleep quality by 10%.
- Increase their daytime wakefulness by 9.5%.
- Improve their concentration by 18%.
- Improve their work performance by 17%.
So it goes without saying that cutting alcohol out of your routine is beneficial. But there is further research to support that abstaining from alcohol long-term can reduce as well as reverse some of the damaging effects of alcohol. By avoiding alcohol altogether, you can:
Increase your brain cells
Drinking large amounts of alcohol reduces (or even halts) your brain’s ability to produce new brain cells. Giving up alcohol restores your brain and actually helps it regenerate cells it has lost. In fact, even alcoholics with significant memory impairment can regain some of their lost brain function with a year of abstinence.
Boost your mood
Many people rely on alcohol as a curative for a bad mood when in reality the exact opposite is true. Alcohol is a depressant that not only disrupts brain function but also alters neurotransmitter function. This disruption can contribute to mood swings, anxiety, personality changes, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
Improve your skin
Alcohol not only ages your brain and your liver, but it also ages your skin. A diuretic, alcohol causes dehydration, which leaves your skin dry and inelastic. When you stop drinking, your natural collagen levels will be restored, leaving your skin looking brighter and younger.
And if the health benefits alone aren’t enough for you, you’re bank account will also be healthier if you decide to drop alcohol. You’ll not only save the money you’d regularly spend on alcohol, but you’ll also avoid the costs of alcohol rehab. And this savings can, in turn, reduce stress – financial and otherwise.
The Costs of Alcohol Rehab
The actual financial cost of rehab varies based on several factors. For some, the costs are minimal, while for others, the financial burden is upwards of thousands of dollars. The variance is mainly dependent on the type of treatment you need – detox, inpatient, outpatient, medication, therapy, etc. And in some cases, insurance may cover some or part of the cost of care provided. In any case, the cost of rehab is nominal compared to the expense of alcohol addiction. Alcohol not only has an impact on your health and finances, but it can also tear apart your family, your relationships, and your life.
So if you’ve wanted to do something good for your health, but didn’t know where to start, cut out the alcohol. It’s the single best choice for your health— and your life —that you can make. For more tips on healthy choices, check out our other articles!