Many people view drinking alcohol as a relatively harmless way to relax, socialize, or celebrate. In fact, in the United States, about 85% of adults have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives.
However, even moderate alcohol intake comes with risks. When you quit drinking, you’ll enjoy multiple health benefits.
1. Reduced Risk Of Cancer
Your body breaks down alcohol into a chemical compound called acetaldehyde. This compound damages your DNA, which increases your risk of developing cancer tumors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking alcohol makes you more likely to get the following types of cancer:
- breast cancer
- colon and rectum cancer
- esophagus cancer
- liver cancer
- mouth and throat cancer
- voice box cancer
2. Better Mental Health
Many people turn to alcohol to boost their mood and ease stress. Others use it to self-medicate mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
While alcohol may temporarily make you feel happy and relaxed, it disrupts communication between your brain cells. This disruption can cause mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and even aggression. It can also worsen symptoms of preexisting mental health issues.
3. Sharper Mind
As you age, your brain shrinks, and your memory slowly fades. Drinking alcohol can speed up this process, increasing your risk of dementia and other forms of memory loss. You may also struggle with other cognitive functions, such as concentration, decision-making, and problem-solving.
Some people assume that only heavy alcohol consumption threatens your cognitive functioning. However, recent research suggests that even one drink a day could speed up brain shrinkage.
4. Better Nutrition
Alcoholic drinks have empty calories, which means they lack nutritional value.
In addition, alcohol prevents your body from absorbing important nutrients like vitamin B1, vitamin B12, and zinc. That’s why many people who drink suffer from malnutrition. Poor nutrition takes a serious toll on both your physical and mental health.
Once you stop drinking, your body will start properly absorbing nutrients again.
5. Healthier Liver
People who drink alcohol face a higher risk of various types of liver damage, including:
- fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat builds up in the liver
- alcoholic hepatitis, which occurs when the liver becomes inflamed
- cirrhosis, which occurs when liver tissue becomes scarred
By giving up alcohol, you’re helping your liver perform its essential functions, which include fighting infections, supporting digestion, removing toxins from your blood, and regulating your blood sugar and cholesterol.
6. Healthier Heart
When you drink alcohol, your heart rate and blood pressure temporarily rise. Over time, heavy drinking (more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men) can lead to chronically high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart disease, and stroke.
Some people claim that drinking one glass of red wine a day might actually reduce your risk of heart disease because it contains an antioxidant called resveratrol.
However, these claims have not been proven. In addition, you can get resveratrol from much healthier sources, namely grapes and grape juice.
7. Better Sleep
Some people mistake alcohol for a sleep aid. Although the drug might make you drowsy, it won’t help you get a good night’s rest. That’s because it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
As the deepest stage of sleep, REM sleep boosts your mood, memory, and overall well-being. Quitting alcohol can quickly increase the amount of REM sleep you get.
8. Reduced Risk Of Injuries
Alcohol impairs your judgment, movement, vision, and hearing. It also makes you more likely to take risks and behave in ways you normally wouldn’t. These effects raise your risk of accidents, including car crashes, falls, burns, and drownings.
Also, because alcohol can cause mood swings and irritability, it may lead you to intentionally hurt yourself or others.
9. Improved Immunity
Your immune system protects you from viruses, bacteria, toxins, and other threats. Alcohol can prevent your body from producing enough white blood cells, which are a vital part of your immune system. That means drinking puts you at greater risk of various illnesses.
Fortunately, when you quit alcohol, it won’t take long for your body to start producing the right amount of white blood cells again.
10. Stronger Relationships
Because alcohol lowers your inhibitions and changes your mood, it can lead you to mistreat your friends and family.
Also, if your alcohol use gets out of control, you may start hiding your drinking habits. This behavior makes it difficult for your loved ones to trust you. It may also be a sign of alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). This disease causes symptoms such as:
- an inability to stop drinking despite negative consequences
- intense cravings for alcohol
- physical dependence, which means you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and sweating when you don’t drink
- tolerance, which means you need increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel intoxicated
When left untreated, alcohol use disorder can seriously damage your relationships.
If you or a loved one feels unable to stop drinking alcohol, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist today.