Ask a Doctor
Effingham Family Medicine
A drink and a smoke were once considered the privileges of adulthood. Health professionals now know, however, that those so called "rights" can lead to a host of medical troubles.
Light to moderate drinking can be socially acceptable and have little ill effects on your health. However, heavy drinking takes a profound toll on the human body including causing chronic diseases and unnecessary injuries and accidents. Approximately 79,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking also causes huge numbers of injuries and illnesses. In 2005, for example, there were 1.6 million hospitalizations and 4 million emergency room visits because of alcohol-related health issues.
Any amount of smoking can damage your health. Smoking is estimated to cause about 443,000 deaths each year in the U.S. In other words, one in five deaths each year can be attributed to smoking. Smoking causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, motor vehicle injuries, murders and suicides combined.
What is a healthy limit for drinking alcohol?
A healthy drinking limit is often called moderate drinking. Health professionals say moderate drinking usually means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
There are some people, however, who should not drink at all:
- Children, teens and young adults under 21 years of age
- Pregnant women
- People who cannot control the amount of alcohol they drink
- Individuals who plan to drive or do other activities that require attention and coordination
- People who are taking medications that can interact with alcohol
- Individuals with certain medical conditions
- Recovering alcoholics
Health professionals define heavy drinking as consuming more than two drinks a day on average for men and more than one drink a day on average for women. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol levels to 0.08 percent or more, which usually means five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks on one occasion for women.
What are some of the health problems that can be caused by heavy drinking?
Heavy drinking and binge drinking can lead to several serious health conditions and/or injuries. Some of these complications are:
- Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), various cancers, high blood pressure and various psychological disorders
- Unintentional injuries: car accidents, falls, drowning, burns, firearm injurie
- Harm to a fetus if a woman drinks while pregnant
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Alcohol dependence
How can I tell if someone in my life has a problem with alcohol?
You or a loved one has an alcohol problem if drinking has started to affect relationships, school or work, social activities and/or the way you or your loved one thinks and feels. If you think there is a problem with alcohol, it's best to talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
Where can I get help for alcohol problems?
Your family doctor or other healthcare provider is a good place to start when seeking help. You also can learn about treatment programs in your local community and speak to someone about alcohol problems by calling the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP.
Why is smoking bad for your health?
Cigarettes contain ingredients that people should never put in their bodies, like tar, carbon monoxide, DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde, and the nicotine in cigarettes makes them highly addictive. Smoking damages every organ in the human body.
Cigarettes can lead to a variety of health problems including:
-Damaging airways and alveoli (small air sacs) of the lungs
-Reducing circulation by narrowing blood vessels
-Swelling of the aorta
-Lowering bone density in women
-Reducing amount of oxygen that reaches organs
-Raising blood pressure
-Raising cholesterol levels
What are some of the diseases caused by smoking?
There are so many diseases related to smoking it's hard to decide where to begin. Below is list of just some of the catastrophic diseases cigarettes can cause:
-Coronary heart disease
-Other cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia, kidney, pancreas, bladder, larynx, pharynx, cervix, stomach, esophagus and uterus cancers
-Chronic bronchitis and emphysema
-Peripheral vascular disease (swelling or weakening of the main artery)
-Preterm delivery/Stillbirth/Low birth weight
-Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
-Increased risk in older women for hip fracture
What are some tips to help you quit?
Below is some advice on quitting smoking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov):
Don't smoke at all. Decreasing the number of cigarettes or switching to low-tar, low nicotine brands does little good.
Write down your reasons for quitting.
Approach the subject knowing quitting will be hard. Be prepared to deal with moodiness and cravings, and give yourself a month to get over these withdrawal symptoms.Remind yourself that half of all adult smokers have quit. If they can do it, so can you!
Remind yourself everyday how important your health is to you and your family - Seek help and don't try and do it alone. Having a support system makes a difference.
Where can I go for help?
Your family doctor can help you create a plan for quitting and/or recommend you to a stop-smoking program. There are also many organizations that provide self-help materials and hotlines:
www.smokefree.gov 1-800-QUIT-NOW (the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute)
www.cancer.org (The American Cancer Society)
www.heart.org 1-800-AHA-USA-1 (The American Heart Association)
www.lungusa.org 1-800-548-8252 (The American Lung Association)
I would like to visit a doctor to discuss alcohol- or smoking-related issues. Where can I go?
The Family Health providers serving the Effingham County Community are here to help! You can make an appointment at one of the following locations:
800 Towne Park Drive, Suite 100
7306 Highway 21, Suite 105
459 Highway 119 South
100 Goshen Road