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A young woman drinking alcohol at home.

Alcohol and Your Health

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Whether you have a drink once a year, once a week, or once a day, it’s important to understand how alcohol can impact you. 

According to NIAAA, more than 140,000 American deaths every year are related to alcohol use. In fact, it’s one of the most common types of preventable deaths. Those living with an alcohol addiction are at risk of about 200 different health problems and injuries.

This month, take a moment to think about your relationship with alcohol. Monitoring your intake, family history, and other factors will help you find or maintain a good balance. Here’s everything to know before taking a sip.

How Much Drinking is Too Much?

Unfortunately, there’s no one right answer to the question of, “How many drinks separates a casual drinker from someone with a problem?” Some people can drink regularly without it affecting their life, and they can simply quit drinking if they want. Others may develop physical and emotional dependence on alcohol after a very short period of time.

However, even moderate drinking can raise your risk of death from various causes, such as several forms of cancer. Health risks increase with the amount of alcohol drink.

The recommended limit for males is 2 standard drinks or less daily or no more than 4 drinks 2 times a week. For women, the recommended limit is 1 standard drink or less per day, and no more than 3 standard drinks 2 times a week.

Signs of alcoholism include:

  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink. 
  • Spending an excessive amount of time finding alcohol, drinking, then recovering.
  • Feeling overwhelming urges to drink.
  • Not feeling able to face parts of your life without a drink first.
  • Knowing that alcohol is causing problems with your life but continuing to drink anyway.
  • Drinking in unsafe situations. For example, when driving or swimming.
Women toasting drinks outside.

The Numbers to Know

When you socialize, changes are high there’s alcohol involved. From bars to barbeques, we often associate drinking with partying, meeting new people, or traveling. We also drink at home when we want to relax. For many people, a glass of wine or beer with dinner is a normal and desirable routine. It’s no surprise then, that alcohol abuse impacts a huge number of people.
 

  • On average, 140,557 Americans die each year due to alcohol effects. That’s 385 deaths per day.
  • Alcohol causes 10% of deaths among people 15 to 49 years old.
  • 60% of participants in one study reported drinking more during COVID-19 lockdowns. 
  • Men are three times more likely than women to die due to alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism is a Serious Disease That Can Be Fatal

Make no mistake: alcoholism is a disease; the same way diabetes or MS are both diseases. It’s not a character flaw, a lack of willpower, or because you’re a bad person. The astronaut Buzz Aldrin and beloved actor Robin Williams both had drinking problems, and no one would accuse either of them of being weak or evil. In fact, many alcoholics desperately want to quit drinking, but they can’t. It’s a condition that affects both the body and the brain.

If left untreated, alcoholism can have serious health consequences, including:

  • Diseases of the liver
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes complications
  • Erectile dysfunction in men; menstruation issues in women
  • Issues with your brain and nervous system that may result in numbness in your hands and feet, dementia, or short-term memory loss.
  • Increased risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, colon, and breast cancers. Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Drastically increased risks of birth defects and miscarriage in pregnant people.
  • Increased risk of dying or being seriously injured in car accidents, homicide, suicide, and drowning.
Man drinking beer in pub.

Who’s at Highest Risk?

Alcoholism has a genetic component, and it runs in families, but there isn’t a simple pattern to determine who will develop alcohol dependence. According to the latest surveys from the CDC and research on the link between alcoholism and genetics:

  • Children of those with alcohol dependence are two to four times more likely to develop a drinking problem — but fewer than half go on to become alcohol dependent themselves.
  • While Mexican Americans are less likely to drink than whites, when they do, they’re at a higher likelihood to drink more or binge drink.
  • Similarly, African Americans are less likely to drink at all but are slightly more likely than whites to be binge drinkers.
  • Men, in general, are more likely to drink and drink to excess than women are.

Help is Available, and We’re Here for You

Again, alcohol dependence is not a moral defect — it’s a serious health problem that requires a serious solution. If you have questions about alcohol use or need referrals to treatment programs, talk to your doctor or contact Behavioral Health Services at (855) 425-1777. Even if you’ve tried before to quit drinking, the right care, support, and treatment can make all the difference.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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A group of teenagers sit outside and use their phones.

How Social Media Impacts Our Health

In today's digital age, social media has become an integral part of our lives, shaping how we connect, communicate, and access information. These apps offer a variety of benefits and can have both positive and negative impacts on our health.

Whether you enjoy browsing content or are monitoring your family’s screen time, it’s essential to understand all the ways social media can affect us. 

Social Connection

Like its name suggests, social media allows us to communicate with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Being online helps us stay up to date on major life milestones and celebrate each other’s successes. For those who live far away from loved ones, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat help us feel closer together. This sense of community makes us happier and more engaged. 

Close up of a man's eye as he scrolls through social media.

Information on Demand

Today, breaking news is delivered instantly. Phone and computer notifications show us how the world is changing in real-time. While access to instant information helps us stay safe and informed, it can also negatively affect our mental health. “Doom scrolling,” or binging content about distressing news, can lead to increased feelings of anxiety. When troubling events unfold, seeking more information is important. Just remember to take breaks if you feel overwhelmed. 

Goals and Aspirations

Social media is a great place to discover new trends, hobbies, and ideas. We’re able to see how others live, work, and spend their free time, which can inspire us to alter our own behaviors.

However, the rise of the influencer industry means many people now showcase their lives to help sell products or services. Because of this, it’s important to remember that not everything you see is reality. Still, if feelings of jealousy arise, take breaks and remember to appreciate the positives in your own life. 

Body Image

The popularity of photo-based platforms means we’re constantly exposed to toxic or unobtainable beauty standards. For young women in particular, body dissatisfaction is a growing effect of social media use. As parents, it’s essential to have open conversations with our kids about what they’re seeing. Remind them that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that health and beauty go far beyond their weight, height, and other external features. 

Misinformation

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a recurring problem was the spread of false information across social media. Lies about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, for example, dissuaded many people from protecting themselves against the virus. This led to deaths that could have been prevented.

Thankfully, misinformation can be combatted. Whenever you turn to social media for health information, always ensure the source is credible and seek additional proof. Advise your loved ones to do the same, and report content you suspect may be harmful or dishonest. 

Two young women pose for a selfie.

Self-Worth

When you post on social media, it’s natural to fixate on how many likes or comments you receive. This is all by design. When we get attention and recognition from online peers, our brains release a chemical called dopamine as a reward, making us feel happy. It’s the same process that occurs when we eat food or work out and is designed to motivate beneficial behavior. By getting these feeling of happiness through social media, we’re incentivized to spend more of our time there, rather than seeking real-world satisfaction. 

To maintain a healthy balance, try to avoid stressing about online validation. If that doesn’t work, take a break from posting altogether. Instead, prioritize hobbies or healthy habits that bring you joy.  

Your Source for Reliable Information

At AltaMed, we recognize that social media has a real and lasting effect on our health. We advocate for responsible online behavior and encourage our community members to use social media as a tool for education, support, and positive change. If you or a loved one are struggling with the negative impacts of social media use, our Behavioral Health team can help. 

Call us at (855) 425-1777 to get started.

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Domestic Violence

Ending Domestic Violence for a Healthier Community

Domestic violence is an all-too-common public health issue that affects millions of individuals and families worldwide. Defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors within an intimate relationship, domestic violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse.

It not only poses physical and psychological harm, but also has far-reaching impacts on the overall health and well-being of victims, families, and communities. Fear and financial dependence prevent most victims from seeking help. As a result, injuries go untreated, stress builds up, mental health worsens, and the relationship can end in death by either homicide or suicide.

Defining Domestic Violence

The United States Surgeon General first listed violence as a public health priority in 1979.

Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV, can consist of:

  • Physical abuse — This includes hitting, slapping, punching, and any form of physical harm. Bruises, broken bones, and unexplained injuries may be a warning sign.

  • Emotional abuse — This can come in the form of insults, humiliation, threats, and constant criticism. Victims often experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

  • Sexual abuse — Unwanted sexual advances, coercion, or non-consensual sexual acts fall under this category. Signs may include unexplained sexually transmitted infections or injuries.

  • Economic abuse — Controlling a victim's finances, restricting access to resources, and preventing them from holding a job are common tactics. Victims may be financially dependent on their abuser.

  • Psychological abuse — Manipulation, gaslighting, and mind games can have a profound impact on a victim's mental health. They may doubt their own reality or feel trapped.

IPV by the Numbers

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, there are millions of victims in the U.S. each year.

Some findings include:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men — report experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner.

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men — have experienced violent sexual contact by an intimate partner.

  • 14% of women and 5% of men — report having been stalked by an intimate partner.

  • 61 million women and 53 million men — experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The Consequences

Survivors of IPV face a host of potential health issues with physical injuries being most common. About 75% of women and 48% of men who survive IPV experience some physical injury related to their abuse. Also, crime statistics show that one in five homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. More than half of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by current or past male partners.

IPV survivors are also at risk for other chronic conditions affecting the:

Survivors can suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They face a higher risk for addictive behaviors like smoking, binge drinking, and risky sexual activity. People from marginalized groups like LGBTQ+ or racial and ethnic minorities are at higher risk for worse consequences.

Recognizing Domestic Violence

Sometimes it’s hard to speak up for someone you think is being abused. We tend to make excuses for why things are a certain way, or we worry we’ll be told to, “mind our own business.” But those being abused can’t or won’t always ask for help. By saying something, you could ultimately save their life.

Abusers often demonstrate the following:

  • A bad temper
  • Abuse of other family members, children, or pets
  • Accusations that the victim is flirting or having an affair
  • Antiquated beliefs about gender roles in relationships
  • Blaming the victim for anything bad that happens
  • Controlling all finances
  • Controlling what the victim wears or how they act
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Demeaning the victim publicly or privately
  • Embarrassing the victim in front of others
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Extremely controlling behavior
  • Forced sex
  • Harassing the victim at work
  • Possessiveness
  • Sabotaging birth control methods
  • Sabotaging the victim’s ability to work or attend school
  • Unpredictability
  • Verbal abuse

If you think someone is being abused, you should:

  • Never judge them
  • Avoid telling them they need to leave (they know that)
  • Not badmouth the abuser
  • Act as a trustworthy friend to the victim
  • Tell them why you’re worried and be specific
  • Listen
  • Offer help
  • Respect their choices
  • Don’t tell them what they should do

Remember, as much as you want to help them, you’re not in their shoes. Respect the complexity of the situation but stay anchored as an ally and a voice of reason. 

We’re Here for You

AltaMed is available to help you, or others, find resources to end an abusive relationship. Our Behavioral Health Services are staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you through whatever life puts in your way. You don’t have to go through it alone. To learn more, call (855) 425-1777.

Alcohol and Your Health