Here it is summertime, filled with vacations, playing in the sun, boating and camping to name just a few activities that come into play this time of year.
Another activity that comes with the summer season is an increase in drinking alcoholic beverages. Most of us enjoy a drink now and then, often when socializing or hanging out with friends and family. Unfortunately for many of us, warm weather can open the possibility of over drinking which can take a toll on our health.
There have been so many studies published in the media around both the beneficial effects of alcohol and the harmful effects, depending on your age and health status, and how much alcohol you drink. The impact of drinking can be pretty devastating to progress with diet and fitness as well as long-term damage to your body.
Here are a few interesting facts about drinking alcohol from a study of roughly 50,000 adults over the age of 18:
1. 37 percent of adults surveyed in the U.S. drink alcohol infrequently, putting their risk of health problems from drinking in a low-risk factor.
2. 35 percent of adults surveyed do not drink alcohol at all.
3. 28 percent of adults surveyed over-consumed alcohol, putting their health at much higher risk.
4. Three in ten adults that drink at high levels are causing damage to their liver and at risk of developing chronic liver disease and other chronic alcohol-related diseases.
5. There are roughly 18 million people in the U.S. treated for alcoholism annually. The total number of the U.S. population with alcohol addiction is thought to be much higher, but many people have no desire to recognize their drinking habits as a problem to their health.
6. Beer and cider sales peak in the summer months, with hard liquor increasing slightly, while wine sales tend to drop off from spring through summer.
7. The consumption of wine and hard liquor actual outpaces summer consumption during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
8. Roughly 10,000 people are killed each year in alcohol-related vehicle crashes in the U.S. with the vast majority of these happening during the summer months.
9. The highest blood alcohol levels of summer happen in the week before the Fourth of July week, during the Fourth and the week after the Fourth of July.
10. Drinking in the sun on a hot summer day is not a great combination. Alcohol depresses your hypothalamus which is a gland that manages your body temperature. Alcoholic beverages, when consumed in the sun on a hot day, will also speed up dehydration.
Another 600-pound elephant in the room drinking with you is alcohol’s effect on the brain. Consuming alcohol can affect the brain in a few different ways. On the positive side, a small amount of alcohol consumption seems to help the brain clear itself of unwanted chemicals and waste. People who drink moderate to heavily over time can develop gaps in brain function. These gaps can lead to permanent brain damage and speed up dementia in some people.
Fitness and exercise is yet another area that alcohol can severely impact progress. Drinking alcohol dehydrates you, so if you’re an athlete, you are putting your ability to improve performance at risk. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes your kidneys and liver work harder which will affect how your body fuels and feeds itself during physical exertion. Drinking alcohol immediately after exercise can make dehydration worse if you did not drink enough fluids during physical activity, and working out too quick after having a few alcoholic drinks can also speed up dehydration.
Whether you’re just having a good time, working or working out, the consumption of alcohol changes the essential delivery of oxygen, nutrients, and brain function more than most people understand. All of this, over time, leads to often hidden and undiagnosed health problems that will show up when correcting the issues, which may be costly and in some cases too late.
I have worked with many people over the years who wanted to change their lifestyle to health and wellness only to be slowed or stopped by drinking alcohol. I think a few drinks always in moderation is excellent for some but others, drinking alcohol may be a poor choice. Listen to your body and be aware of the health and fitness challenges drinking alcohol can cause. It indeed is a personal choice, but one that requires careful consideration depending on your age and health status.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.