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How Well Does Alcohol Play with Your Brain?

By Sandy Schroeder

Much has been written about alcohol’s role in health. Heart health has been one of the suggested bonuses of having one or two drinks a day, but new research posts some new warnings.

Recent research in BMJ raises flags for brain health. Some 500 men and women with an average age of 43 were studied for 30 years. They reported daily drinking and were tested for thinking skills. The also had an MRI scan. Participants were drinking 5-ounce glasses of wine or 12-ounces of beer.

Brain Health Impacts

A shrinking of the hippocampus, which affects memory, and erosion of white matter, which is the brain’s wiring, showed up with eight or more drinks per week. There was no effect with seven drinks a week.

The conclusions were observational, but they suggest having more than one drink per day may impact the brain.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than an average of one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men.

Mayo Clinic Overview

The Mayo Clinic says, “If you do not drink alcohol, no one recommends you start drinking it for health reasons. You can make many heart-healthy lifestyle choices that do not include alcohol.”

Alcohol can help the body's heart and blood vessels, helping to avoid heart attacks. Alcohol helps thin the blood to avoid clots that cause strokes or heart attacks. It can also reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. Mayo Clinic goes on to say moderate drinking has proven to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, but there are serious risks, too.

Addiction is a risk even in moderate drinking. The Mayo Clinic suggests skipping a few days in between drinking to break the connection to make sure you are not becoming dependent on alcohol. Making wine or beer an occasional pleasure, rather than a nightly ritual, is a wise choice. The costs of addiction are too great to risk drifting into a dependency.

Drinking can also elevate the risk for many cancers including stomach, breast, liver, colon and oral. And of course, there's the risk of ruining your life or others' if you get behind the wheel and drive while impaired.

Many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, but the overall take among doctors and researchers may be to keep consumption low and not to start now if you are not a drinker.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Windermere, Fla.

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