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What Casual Drinking Does to Your Body Over Time

The effects of having a few drinks can differ person to person, but often people may not realize just how risky their drinking patterns are, or what that alcohol is doing to them under the hood.

There are two definitions for “safe” drinking. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say moderate alcohol consumption is OK, which means having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has its own recommendation it calls “low risk” drinking, which sets limits for what levels of drinking will put you at a low risk for developing an alcohol abuse issue later on. This comes out to no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week for women, and no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week for men.

According to Dr. George Koob, director of the NIAAA, the current body of evidence doesn’t show whether there are significant differences between someone who drinks at this level versus someone who never drinks. In some cases, there’s strong evidence to suggest that moderate wine consumption could actually benefit the heart. Though Koob says some studies have been controversial and it’s not determined what it is about wine or other parts of a person’s lifestyle that could be at play. There are also individual patterns and sensitivities that people should take into consideration at this level. Some people can handle the amount better than others.

If you genuinely stay within the healthy drinking limits, you’re likely at a low risk for alcohol-related health problems down the line.

The concept of binge drinking is often associated with college students and drinking to get “drunk.” But evidence suggests that people beyond college age also maintain those heavy drinking behaviors. The NIH defines it as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within two hours. Some of the risks associated with binge drinking are well known. It increases the risk for sexual assault, violence and self harm. But the physical effects of such behaviors on the body are often less discussed. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there’s strong evidence to suggest that regular binge drinking can damage the frontal cortex and areas of the brain involved in executive functions and decision making. Alcohol slows down the pace of the neurotransmitters in your brain that are critical for proper body responses and even moods.

“Abstaining from alcohol over several months to a year may allow structural brain changes to partially correct,” the NIH says. “Abstinence also can help reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem­ solving, memory, and attention.”

Long term drinking can also hurt your heart muscles making them unable to contract properly. It can also harm liver, pancreas and immune system function. Heavy drinking can prevent the protective white blood cells in your body to attack bacterial invaders like they’re supposed to. Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk for certain cancers like mouth and breast. Regular heavy drinking also increases the risk for some alcohol dependence. “It creeps up on people,” says Koob.Social Drinking

Sleeping medication use may increase risk for car accidents

NBC Nightly News (6/11, story 9, 2:10, Holt, 7.86M) reported on “a big wake-up call for the millions of Americans who take certain kinds of sleeping” medications. Correspondent Ann Thompson explained, “A new study…finds three sedatives nearly double the risk of vehicle accidents among new users.” In addition, “the study…finds the risk of accidents increases over time and can last up to a year after you start taking the drugs.”

The NBC News (6/12, Fox) website reports that for the study, investigators “collected data on…zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien; trazodone, sometimes sold under the brand name Oleptro; and temazepam, brand name Restoril.” The researchers found “that people who took any one of” these “three popular sleeping aids had anywhere between a 25 percent and three times higher risk of being involved in an accident while driving.” The study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Health Day (6/12) reports that physicians, “pharmacists and patients should discuss this potential risk when selecting a sleep medication, the researchers said.”

Skin Cancer Update 2015

The rate of skin cancer has doubled over the last 30 years, according to new federal data.

Melanoma, specifically—which is the deadliest kind of skin cancer—is on the rise, and according to the latest research, the yearly cost of treating it is estimated to triple to a total of $1.6 billion in the year 2030.

One way to prevent skin cancer is to cover up, and sunscreen is typically a go-to to protect skin in the summer heat. However, recent data has suggested that while sunscreens add protection, they aren’t necessarily up to snuff and often brands make coverage claims they can’t really deliver. There’s also the fact that many Americans still don’t wear it daily (and many still use indoor tanning beds).

A recent report from the Environmental Working Group showed that many sunscreens offer poor coverage or have ingredients that the organization views as worrisome. Some brands market their SPF 70 or SPF 100+ even though they don’t really have much more protection than SPF 50.

New, better sunscreen ingredients could help. Recently, legislation was passed to make the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to more quickly respond to pending applications for new ingredients to add to sunscreens. Many of these ingredients have already been available in sunscreens abroad for years. The law is supposed to make the agency act more promptly, and hopefully result in sunscreens with better protection for Americans.

The FDA also said years ago that it would crack down on sunscreen regulation, by putting a cap on SPF at a max of SPF 50, establish standards for testing the effectiveness, and enforce better labeling.

So what’s the best way to stay protected? Keep wearing sunscreen (data suggests Americans could do a better job), but abide by other measures too. Health experts recommend covering exposed skin with clothing, avoiding time in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, and remembering to reapply sunscreen—a teaspoon per body part—at least every two hours.

Bananas for Bananas

Why they are good for you?
While this tropical fruit is an American favorite, bananas are actually classified as an herb. Seriously!
The correct name of lots of bananas is a “hand”.
Bananas are an excellent source of cardioprotective potassium, are an effective prebiotic, enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium, and increase dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – all brain chemicals that counter depression!