Are you participating in Dry January? This break from alcohol consumption has become an annual tradition for many and this year, it’s more important than ever. Since the start of the pandemic, alcohol consumption has gone up 14% overall, and, most alarmingly, in women, the increase rises to 41%
People often look to alcohol to help them cope with stress, but in reality, alcohol is a depressant that worsens stress. Given the current (and seemingly never ending) climate of stress in the world, January is the perfect time to step back, reflect on how much alcohol we are consuming and how it is impacting our health, happiness and wellbeing. Vascular Specialists is here to help you start the new year with a fresh, healthy perspective.
How Much is Too Much?
Before you dive into Dry January, consider where you fall on the drinking scale. For these numbers, one drink is quantified as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor. Recent statistics show:
- Moderate drinking is defined as one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.
- A binge drinker enjoys multiple beverages at a single occasion, 4 or more for women and 5 or more for men.
- A heavy drinker consumes more than 8 drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men.
No matter where you fall on the scale, embarking on weeks of sobriety, or even reduction in alcohol consumption, will be beneficial for your mental and physical health.
5 Benefits of Giving-up Alcohol, Starting with Dry January
Sleep better - Alcohol affects your nervous system, which is directly tied to your quality of sleep. People who drink an excessive amount of alcohol before turning in for the night often have difficulty falling asleep right away. Even if you do fall asleep, sleep disruptions increase while sleep quality decreases, due to the liver enzymes metabolizing the alcohol.
Lowers Blood Pressure - Drinking three drinks or more in one sitting will raise your blood pressure temporarily, but regular binge drinking leads to long-term rise in blood pressure. To lower your blood pressure, eliminating alcohol or cutting back from heavy drinking status to moderate drinking status can reduce your blood pressure considerably.
Decreases Risk of Stroke – One of the major risk factors of possible stroke in your future is high blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure by decreasing or eliminating is alcohol will decrease your risk of this life-altering event. Additionally, a recent study, the more alcohol consumed, the greater the likelihood of having a stroke.
Higher Cognitive Abilities – Alcohol directly affects cognitive abilities by blocking chemical signals within the brain. This happens immediately and causes the common indications of intoxication, such as slurred speech, slower reflexes, difficulty remembering details. Long-term drinking creates long-term brain damage. When you stop drinking before long-term damage sets in, your brain is allowed to repair itself. This is also the result of withdrawal symptoms that people may experience. Abstaining from alcohol will increase your memory and thinking abilities.
Stronger Immune System – Unlike other elements in your diet, your body doesn’t have anywhere to “store” alcohol, so breaking down alcohol becomes your body’s priority. If your body is prioritizing sending alcohol to the liver to metabolize, other “invaders” like bacteria and viruses are being ignored. This leaving your immune systems defenses lowered for a virus to cause serious illness. Removing alcohol from your system allows your body to keep its priorities straight – protecting you from sickness and disease.
A Few Words of Caution
Depending on your current drinking habits, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit cold turkey. While Dry January is an excellent exercise in healthy habits, alcohol withdrawal in extreme cases may require medical attention. Ask your primary care physician about side effects if you are a moderate to heavy drinker and talk to Dr. Tanquilut, Dr. Pradhan or Dr. Coffey to discuss any medication management needed.
Dry January can improve your health dramatically. It can also make you feel better overall, with a clearer mind, more energy and a brighter, happier mood every day. In fact, you may feel so good that you decide to continue Dry January into February, March and beyond.