Northport VA Medical Center
Ask The Experts-Healthy Living-April
Joanne D. Taylor, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and the Health Behavior Coordinator for the Northport VAMC.
Mary F. Cavanagh, MD, MPH is a Preventive Medicine and Public Health Physician and the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program Manager.
Drs. Taylor and Cavanagh work closely with patients and Medical Center staff to promote patient centered care with an emphasis on prevention.
What is the April Healthy Living Message?
Key Message for Veterans: If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation (women no more than 1 drink a day; men no more than 2 drinks a day). Avoid “binge drinking.” If you are concerned about your drinking, talk to your VA health care team about getting help.
The Standard Measure of Alcohol
In the United States, a standard drink is any drink that contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
- One drink is:
- 12 oz. regular beer OR
- 8-9 oz. malt liquor OR
- 5 oz. table wine OR
- 1.5 oz. 80-proof hard liquor
- Binge drinking is having:
- More than 3 drinks on one occasion for women and adults over age 65.
- More than 4 drinks on one occasion for men.
- Remember, on average, women should have no more than one drink a day (7 drinks per week) and men should have no more than 2 drinks a day (14 drinks per week).
- For many adults, drinking small amounts of alcohol does not cause serious health problems.
- Too much alcohol use or binge drinking can lead to higher risk of health problems, such as liver damage or injuries.
- The following people should not drink alcohol at all:
- Children and teenagers
- People of any age who cannot limit their drinking to the recommended levels
- Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant
- People who plan to drive, operate machines, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
- People taking certain medications that interact with alcohol
- People with certain medical conditions
- People recovering from alcohol dependence (alcoholism)
- Alcohol dependence can be treated. Effective treatments include individual counseling, group treatments, medications to reduce craving or prevent relapse, and inpatient or residential treatment. Talk to your VA health care team about the resources VA has that can help.
Immediate Health Risks
Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These immediate effects are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following—
- Unintentional injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries.
- Violence, including family violence and child abuse. About 35% of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence. Studies have also shown that alcohol is a leading factor in child abuse and neglect cases, and is the most frequently abused substance among these parents.
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life.
- Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, difficulty breathing, or death.
Long-Term Health Risks
Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems. These include but are not limited to—
- Neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and nerve damage.
- Cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.
- Psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Social problems, including unemployment, and family problems.
- Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast. In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.
- Liver diseases, including—
- Alcoholic hepatitis.
- Cirrhosis, which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States.
- Among persons with Hepatitis C virus, worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition.
- Other gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis.
Who do you call if you have questions about this or other Healthy Living Messages?
- Your Primary Care Provider/PACT Team
- Health Promotion Disease Prevention Coordinators
- Dr. Joanne D. Taylor 631-261-4400 x6797
- Dr. Mary F. Cavanagh 631-261-4400 x2160