“Do you drink alcoholic beverages?”
“Do you smoke?”
“Yes but not too much, only on some occasions.”
Men gather around in circles and enjoy endless talks with a bottle of “Jack” and “smokes” in between. Conversations become more interesting and expressive after several rounds and bottles emptied. As if drinking is not enough, the side dishes include cholesterol-laden snacks, grilled fats and sinful carbohydrate loaded foods. Surprisingly, despite the hangover and headaches they get every morning after an alcoholic binge, men still look forward to another round table discussion.
How occasional is occasional really depends on the person; but some “occasional” things may start to trigger a complex process in the body. After all, big things come from little things.
What is a standard drink? The amount of liquid in your glass, can or bottle does not necessarily match up to how much alcohol is actually in your drink. One “standard drink” contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in 12 ounces of regular beer that is usually about 5-percent alcohol; 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12-percent alcohol or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, that is about 40-percent alcohol. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 of the US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This is also true in the Philippines.
Alcohol may affect several body organs. It can interfere with the brain’s communication pathways, which can change mood and behavior. Gradually or even in a single occasion, drinking can damage the heart and may even be a risk factor for stroke and cardiac attacks. Good news, though, research shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.
Liver inflammation, also known as alcoholic hepatitis, can lead to a variety of problems such as fatty liver, fibrosis and cirrhosis (shrinking of the liver). Alcohol may also cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation that prevents proper digestion.
Alcohol is also considered a risk factor for developing cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and the breasts. Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections, even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Smoking, on the other hand, can cause dangerous effects on the body. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products, including cigars and smokeless tobacco, causes or worsens numerous diseases and conditions. Some products also expose nearby people to toxic secondhand smoke. According to the American Lung Association there are approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are poisonous. Smoking can cause cancer and then block your body from fighting it. It can cause cancer in almost anywhere in your body. While it is true that you can grow old even when you are smoking, the physiologic changes of aging may affect your resistance to developing resistance to its effects.
I always tell my patient when I learn that they smoke, “You must be very rich! You can afford packs of cigarettes which can save you money to provide for your children and you have money to burn in old age once lung function declines and you develop chronic, obstructive pulmonary disease.”
We should always be responsible for our health. Life is short, it’s true, but enjoying it is not equal to abusing the bodies that we have.
Editor’s Note: Today marks the beginning of “Men Over Forty,” a weekly column, which seeks to provide male readers an easy-to-grasp discussion of fitness and wellness issues that generally concern them at the prime of their lives. Written by various medical doctors for The Manila Times Lifestyle, “Men Over Forty” will also give out practical tips for men on how to avoid or begin specific lifestyles to benefit their overall health.