Dr. Denis Grillo, Ear, Nose & Throat, 12/25/12

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Holidays and alcohol consumption

By Dr. Denis Grillo

Many of us through the Christmas and New Year’s season will raise an occasional glass and drink a toast. Some of us may do it too often.

We all know some of the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and overdoing it can lead to problems. About one third of Americans do not consume alcohol, for various reasons: religious, previous addiction, or it just generally does not suit them.

With the uptick of parties throughout the holiday season, alcohol consumption goes up significantly.

There is good evidence that moderate drinking has some health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease, but that should not be a green light for people to overconsume.

About 70,000 to 80,000 deaths per year are directly attributed to excessive drinking, which puts it on the top five list of most preventable deaths, following smoking and poor diet and lack of exercise.

Excessive drinking can be daily excessive amounts of alcohol, or it can be binge drinking, which is very common in younger adults and a major problem on college campuses. When you combine the excessive drinking and the hazard it poses with driving, you multiply
the factor of problems that it can cause.

Let’s look at a few numbers to try to help guide us to properly consume alcohol through the holiday season, and for that matter, the rest of the year. A drink is considered a 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor. Moderate drinking is one drink a day for a woman, and two drinks a day for a man, and that is somewhat based on weight, height, and body mass index.

Excessive drinking causes chronic conditions including liver disease, as well as the acute injuries from, classically, a motor vehicle accident. 72 percent of the time excessive drinking is done by males. Other injuries include falls, accidents such as falling asleep with a cigarette, and accidents around the water including drowning. Suicide and homicide rates are also higher in people who consume heavy amounts of alcohol.

As mentioned earlier, alcohol in moderation can help heart disease, but there is some evidence to suggest that breast cancer and colon cancer can actually be worse with alcohol consumption.

It seems that there is always a balance that needs to be considered when taking in alcohol. The one big difference is, in the younger population, they are not at high risk for heart disease, breast cancer or colon cancer, so for most young people consuming excessive amounts of alcohol poses only a risk factor, no benefit.

Good or bad, it seems that drinking habits start young, and people are influenced by their peers, and in some cases by their family on how they interact with and consume alcohol.

Please be careful this holiday season, and remember that good habits are not seasonal. Try to live year round with the idea that mild to moderate drinking is okay, and excessive is not.

Denis Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.