Can the risks of alcohol be offset? What the experts say | ET REALITY


Q: I drink alcohol regularly. Are there any healthy activities you can do to counteract its damage?

Despite past claims to the contrary, current evidence makes it quite clear that even a little alcohol is bad for your health, and is linked to certain types of cancer, cardiovascular conditions, liver disease, and other concerns.

But drinking can still be part of a healthy lifestyle if done in moderation, said Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which means no more than two drinks a day for those. men and one drink a day. for women.

There is no sure way to offset the consequences of alcohol, said Mariann Piano, a professor and researcher at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing who studies the effects of alcohol consumption. It’s not like you can “run around the block one more time” to avoid a night of heavy drinking, she said.

However, if you drink, it may be particularly important to prioritize other aspects of your health.

Excess alcohol can suppress the immune system, weakening the body’s defenses against infections. Therefore, people who drink may want to take steps to keep their immune systems working well, Dr. Rimm said.

That includes exercising regularly. The link between exercise and immunity is difficult to study, but researchers have long noted that people who are fit and physically active appear to develop fewer respiratory tract infections. And when they do get sick, their ailments tend to be less serious.

In a 2011 study In a study that looked at about 1,000 adults in North Carolina, for example, researchers found that those who exercised five or more days a week were 43 percent less likely to get sick with an upper respiratory tract infection during a 12-week period than those who exercised heavily. sedentary.

However, keep in mind that exercise is not a guaranteed way to mitigate the harmful effects of drinking, Dr. Piano said.

Another critical component of a healthy immune system is getting enough sleep, which can be especially difficult for those who drink, as alcohol significantly disrupts sleep.

To get enough rest after a night of drinking, give yourself several hours of downtime between drinking and going to bed, said Aric Prather, a sleep specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. The lower the blood alcohol concentration at bedtime, the less harmful it will be.

It’s also helpful to opt for lower-alcohol drinks while you’re out, such as a 4 percent beer instead of a strong mixed drink, he said.

A healthy diet can also help promote your overall health and potentially reduce your risk of developing some of the conditions related to alcohol consumption, such as certain types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. David Streem, a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of alcohol-related problems at the Cleveland Clinic, said the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish, It is widely considered the “gold standard” for healthy eating.

Alcoholic drinks can also be high in calories, especially if they’re sugary cocktails like margaritas or pina coladas, Dr. Rimm said, so you may want to take into account how the extra calories from alcohol fit into your overall calorie allowance. calories for the day. .

And drinking can lead to poor food choices, Dr. Streem added. A weekly beer after work with friends probably won’t affect his health much, he said.

“But if that beer is always accompanied by a 12-ounce steak or a huge plate of nachos,” the consequences of unhealthy eating could accumulate over time and be more harmful to your health than the alcohol itself, he said.

It’s essential to see a doctor at least once a year for a regular checkup, Dr. Rimm said, and to be honest about how much you drink. If it is more than a moderate amount, a doctor might recommend additional blood tests, such as those that evaluate whether liver enzymes or blood sugar levels are within a healthy range.

Starting preventive screenings at recommended ages, such as colonoscopies at age 45 and mammograms at age 40, may be especially important if you drink, Dr. Rimm said, since alcohol is a risk factor for colorectal cancer and of breast.

Being more intentional about when and why you choose to drink can encourage you to consume less alcohol, said Thea Gallagher, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health.

With a mindful drinking approach, you can pay attention to how alcohol makes you feel, both in the moment and the next day. What does alcohol offer you? What is removed?

By looking at the motivations behind your desire to drink, you can begin to evaluate whether you might benefit from reducing it, he said. To achieve this, try taking it easy by drinking one less drink per night than you normally would, Dr. Gallagher suggested.

“Getting a little more involved with the pros and cons and making conscious decisions, being aware and making small adjustments over time” can be really effective in starting a balanced relationship with alcohol, she said.

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