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Tip to be fit: Knowing the dangers of tossing back one too many drinks

May 21, 2019 GMT

Everyday we get a new study on what drinking alcohol does to our body. One day it’s OK. The next week it’s not. What’s normal? What’s too much? Does age play a part? What does it do to our brain?

We are born with about 100 billion brain cells. From birth to our early 20s, our brains mass triples. This is due to new connections we create between brain cells each time we learn something new. Once you pass your early 20s, you could lose up to 100,000 brain cells everyday for the rest of our life.

If you drink alcohol, you will lose even more. A heavy drinker will lose up to 60,000 more brain cells a day. A heavy drinker is described as person that drinks more than two alcoholic drinks a day.

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Alcohol generally kills brain cells in your left hemisphere. This is part of the brain responsible for language and logic. Men who are heavy drinkers also have reduced blood flow to the front of the brain. This area is responsible for thinking creatively, making memories and solving problems.

In a paper published at the UCLA School of Medicine it was noted that even two to three drinks a day four days a week will harm brain function. This worsening function caused by alcohol is even more pronounced in people over the age 40. This amount of alcohol intake will cause your brain to age faster. Alcohol also makes your brain more susceptible to damage. It was recently suggested that drinking three or more beers or glasses wine a day could cause permanent brain damage that affects your motor skills. That includes driving, riding a bike and even operating a lawn mower.

What is a serving of alcohol? That depends on whom you ask. The average serving for wine is 4 ounces. The average serving for beer is 12ozs. The average serving for hard liquor is 1.5 ounces. Most domestic beer is 4 to 5% alcohol served in a 12-ounce can or bottle. The average beer contains about 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol. The average wine contains 12% alcohol. A 4 ounces glass of wine contains about 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol. One ounce of 100 proof liquor contains 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol. The body can typically process one standard drink per hour.

Beer, wine and liquor contain about 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol, which is a little more than the average amount of alcohol that the body can process in an hour. This is the reason that amount has become the standard for one drink.

What does it mean to drink in moderation? The definition of moderation differs from country to country. Australia, Denmark and Finland suggest a limit of two drinks a day for both genders. The French suggest up to three drinks daily for men and women. The Canadians recommendations vary from province to province. Most governments recommend that people over 65 drink less than the official guidelines.

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Aging slows down a senior’s ability to break down alcohol. Alcohol will remain in an older person’s system longer. Because of this reason some seniors can feel an increase in the effects from the same amount of alcohol they drank when younger. This can cause more accidents. This can include falls, fractures and car crashes. Older women are more sensitive than men to the effects of alcohol.

Some medications should not be mixed with alcohol. That includes prescription, over-the-counter and herbal remedies. Mixing them can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Most seniors take medications every day and are more likely to take one or more medications that interact with alcohol. This will increase their risk for a harmful alcohol medication interaction.

To add insult to injury drinking alcohol can make you ugly. Alcohol consumption is bad for the skin is because it can dehydrate your body. Your skin is the largest organ you have. Drink alcohol will dry your skin. Alcohol creates inflammation throughout your body and skin. The effects of drinking alcohol far surpass dehydration alone. Dullness, enlarged pores, discoloration, sagging, fine lines and lack of resilience are just a few of the problems that can result within the skin.

Excess alcohol alters blood flow to the skin and leaves an unhealthy appearance for days. Alcohol causes small blood vessels in the skin to widen which allow more blood to flow close to the surface. This will produce a flushed color and a feeling of warmth. This can lead to broken capillaries on the face.

Drinking alcohol can affect your sleep too. Sleep is important for rejuvenating the skin and body. A few alcoholic beverages in the evening may initially make us drowsy.

About an hour of having a drink, the alcohol triggers a burst of norepinephrine, which is a hormone that increases as a result of excitement or stress. This will cause us to come back to consciousness. The result is a very poor night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation will cause it’s own problems.

At any age alcohol is like a two edge sword. Drinking alcohol helps in some ways and damaging in others. Alcohol contains destructive molecules called aldehydes, which can do harm to our body. Alcohol can cause cellular damage and inflammation to both the plasma membrane and portions of our cell’s interior. While some people always want to point out heart health when it comes to alcohol it’s the liver that must work to detoxify your body of the alcohol you drink.

Alcohol has also been linked to cancer. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that alcohol causes 3 to 4 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. (about 19,500 deaths each year). Most of the cancer-related deaths in women are from breast cancer while most in men are from oral and esophageal cancer. The researchers estimate that at least half of the deaths occur in people consuming three or more drinks a day and 30 percent in those averaging less than 1.5 drinks a day. Alcohol-related cancer deaths can shorten your live by about 18 years.

There is no healthy way to drink alcohol. But you can keep these facts in mind:

1. You should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. It doesn’t stop the affects of drinking but it does slow down the rate it is absorbed into your liver.

2. Stay well hydrated by consuming plenty of water. It will help to rehydrate you but won’t stop the damage the alcohol does to your body.

3. Avoid sugar-laden, pro-inflammatory mixers and use soda water or tonic instead.

4. Coffee is not an antidote to alcohol and will leave you feeling even worse. More than two cups of coffee can cause caffeine problems. The caffeine will also dehydrate you.

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