During the COVID-19 pandemic, stress levels among Americans have been high since restaurants and clubs have limited hours, family and friend gatherings have been minimal and small, and working from home has become the new normal. Not only does this stress alone negatively affect the heart as seen in our previous blog, but the coping mechanisms that Americans are using are turning into long term effects, not just short term stress-relievers. Since COVID-19 pandemic started, alcohol sales in the US have gone up by 54% and online alcohol sales have increased 252%.1 While it may be easier to knock back an extra couple glasses of wine, this seemingly harmless addition to your life may affect you down the road.
What is considered a “drink” and how much is too much? The recommended alcohol intake per day is one drink for women and one or two for men. Twelve ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits is considered one drink.2 This may not seem like a lot to many people, considering restaurants disguise the taste of booze with fruity cocktails, and you may have an oversized glass at home. According to the CDC, binge drinking is considered 4 or more drinks for women, and 5 for men. Heavy drinking is considered 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. It is estimated that about 1 in 6 Americans binge drink at least once a week.3
With the astounding rise in alcohol sales this past year, we may be seeing a rise in unhealthy hearts. This is because anything more than the daily recommendation increases your risk of elevated cholesterol levels, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and weakening of the heart. All these lead to heart disease and therefore, greatly increase your risk for a heart attack.4 Not only that, but alcohol is considered “empty calories,” and are ultimately broken down into sugar. This can lead to weight gain and higher chance to develop type II diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease. In addition, what is commonly seen with excessive alcohol intake is often mindless late-night snacking, dehydration, and hangovers that lead to lack of physical activity and increase intake of processed, high calorie foods.4
With the negative effects of alcohol, it may seem easy to stop or limit consumption. However, with the pressures of going out with friends, celebratory party invitations or the need to relieve stress, we all know it is not that simple. Consider using some of these tactics to avoid binge drinking:
- Control your environment. Know what places and which groups of people tend to lead you to binge drinking. Place a curfew for yourself or suggest doing an activity that does not involve the pressures of alcohol.
- Weigh your options. Think about the pros and cons of consuming alcohol. With the above information in mind, having a night of “fun” may not be the best choice for your future health.
- Create a support system. Find people who are your biggest cheerleaders and will help you achieve your goals. Surround yourself with people who make it easy to avoid alcohol.
- Consider giving up alcohol. While everything in moderation is a standard, look at your habits and tendencies. If you feel like you may lose control once you start, think about avoiding alcohol altogether.5
- Replace alcohol with a good habit. If you find yourself reaching for alcohol often, replace those occasions with a good habit. Get lost in a book or do an activity with your friends such as mini golf. Take a cooking class to try a new recipe or pick-up kickboxing. If you find a different activity you enjoy, it will be easier to replace the time spent drinking.
For any assistance with your health or fitness needs, talk to one of our professionals, who will be your biggest supporters on your journey to health and wellness.
Hillary grew up being active her whole life. After playing many sports, she settled on volleyball and softball, which she played through college at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. While at Concordia, she earned a double major in exercise science and nutrition. After she moved to the MN twin cities area after college, she earned her certified personal trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine along with a certified strength and conditioning coach through USA weightlifting. She found passion in motivating people to reach their goals by finding a personalized nutrition and exercise plan that worked best for them. She has worked with clients 1-on-1, as well as small group classes. She looks forward to continuing to grow her knowledge base and help people achieve their health and wellness goals through Live Your Life!
In her spare time, Hillary can usually be found at the gym, playing volleyball, or coaching softball. During the summer, she participates in many sand volleyball leagues and tournaments. She enjoys Minnesota summer activities, such as rollerblading, kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming. She loves playing board games with her friends and family and trying any new recipe she can find.
1 Michael S. Pollard, PhD. “Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US.” JAMA Network Open, JAMA Network, 29 Sept. 2020, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770975.
2 “Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/alcohol-and-heart-health-separating-fact-from-fiction.
3 “Excessive Alcohol Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/alcohol.htm.
4“Is Drinking Alcohol Part of a Healthy Lifestyle?” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/alcohol-and-heart-health.
5“How to Stop Binge Drinking: Understanding Binge Drinking.” Recovery.org, 31 Dec. 2020, www.recovery.org/alcohol-treatment/binge-drinking/.