Alcohol and Your Health

October 02, 2019

For many people, having a refreshing beer, a calming glass of wine, or a tasty cocktail is a nice way to end the day, socialize on a night out, or have fun on the weekends. Some savor the taste; others enjoy the “buzz” and the feeling they get after a couple of drinks.

When it comes to drinking alcohol and our health, there are so many mixed messages out there. Some studies say that having a little wine every day is good for your heart, but there have also been many reports about a dangerous increase in binge drinking. And you may be wondering, “Is it ever OK to drink?”

AltaMed is here to give you the facts so you can make a healthy decision that’s right for you.

 

How Much Drinking is Too Much?

Young people drinking and having fun in a bar

Many people drink not for the taste, but because of how drinking makes them feel (or prevents them from feeling). Over time, those who drink for the effects may find themselves needing more drinks, more often, to achieve that feeling. And drinking to excess, or to the point where it affects your health, your relationships, or your professional life, is alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as alcoholism.

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 heath, 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.

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

 

Alcoholism is a Serious Disease That Can Be Fatal

Close up of a beer glass and a man in the back

Make no mistake: alcoholism is a disease, the same way diabetes or MS are both diseases. It’s not just 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 is 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 women
  • Increased risk of dying or being seriously injured in car accidents, homicide, suicide, and drowning

 

Who’s at Highest Risk?

Alcohol shot

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

  • Children of alcoholics are two to four times more likely to develop a drinking problem – but fewer than half go on to become alcoholics themselves.
  • While Mexican Americans are less likely to drink than whites, when they do, they’re more likely to drink even more. Mexican Americans are more likely to 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

Man being attended by a specialist

Again, alcoholism 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, contact AltaMed’s Behavioral Health Services. Even if you’ve tried before to quit drinking, the right care, support, and treatment can make all the difference.

 

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Men’s Health Issues: Common Challenges, Overcoming Myths

June 03, 2019

In honor of Men’s Health Month, we are taking a look at some of the unique health challenges men face. Men are more likely to develop health conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • High blood pressure 
  • High cholesterol

These are just some of the many potential health conditions men may face in life.  Fear is one of the main reasons why the majority of men avoid going to the doctor. Even though going to the doctor can be nerve racking, it is important to know your health status and catch problems early on.


Most Common Men’s Health Problems


AltaMed man getting blood pressure checked
 

Because of their reluctance to see a doctor, men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with a disease or illness when it is further along, and treatment is more complicated. 

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the U.S., accounting for one in every four male deaths. Heart disease is more common among whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. 
  • Approximately one man in every nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. 
  • Studies show that men under 50 are more likely to have high blood pressure than women of the same age. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or kidney failure if left undiagnosed and untreated.
  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to die from accidents including a fall, a car accident, drowning, or violence.


Bad Health Habits


AltaMed man smoking
 
The numbers above seem high until you consider that men are more likely to have unhealthy habits that lead to many of these issues. 

  • Almost 16% of men smoke cigarettes and they often start before they turn 18 years old.
  • Almost 31% of men over age 18 have five or more alcoholic beverages a day.
  • High blood pressure in men is usually a result of stress, diet, alcohol, and tobacco use. (For women its most often linked to obesity or hormonal changes).   
  • According to the Census Bureau, men make up nearly 55% of those without health insurance in the U.S.
  • Perhaps most dangerous of all, up to 60% of men are unlikely to seek medical care, even when they believe that they may be seriously ill. The Centers for Disease Control found that men are three times as likely to go without a doctor visit for five or more years.  


Myths About Men’s Health


AltaMed men mud run

Unfortunately, our cultures around the world tell men that they should be tough, brave, and strong. They are encouraged to “man up” to earn respect. One of the side effects of this is that men often believe going to the doctor is as a sign of weakness.

  • Men don’t want to change – the doctor may advise they lose weight, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol
  • Everything’s probably fine – men may not have any symptoms, so they don’t want to “waste” their time or money
  • They can play through it – athletes do it all the time, so many men believe they can just deal with the pain


Bottom Line


AltaMed man at doctor

Encourage the men in your life to understand how important it is to seek regular care for their health. Living longer and healthier requires effort —especially getting routine medical checkups, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, getting or staying active, and seeking mental health help if it is needed. 

Men should also find a doctor they are comfortable talking with about all of these issues and concerns. See our doctor finder if you or a loved one doesn’t have a regular doctor, or needs to find one that speaks your preferred language.  

The Department of Health and Human Services has found that men are often reluctant to get health information in traditional places like doctor’s offices. In that case, the mobile AltaMed clinic may be just what the doctor ordered! 

We’ve made health care easier than ever with bilingual staff, health screenings, and education in locations that are convenient to you. Check out the information below to find locations and hours that are convenient for you.


Northgate Markets throughout Los Angeles and Orange County

  • Follow AltaMed on Facebook and Instagram for updates on screening dates and locations. 


The Mexican Consulate


The Mexican Consulate will be providing glucose and blood pressure screenings monthly from 9am-12pm at 2401 W 6th St, Los Angeles. Below are the dates you can get screened:

  • Thursday, June 27 
  • Thursday, July 25
  • Thursday, August 22
  • Thursday, September 26
  • Thursday, October 24 
  • Thursday, November 28


City of HPPD National Night Out


AltaMed will be providing free adult health screenings and resources at 6542 Miles Ave., in Huntington Park on Tuesday, August 6. The Huntington Park Police Department will be hosting this event and there will be community organizations, food, and giveaways. 

 

The Health Benefits (and Risks) of Drinking Caffeine

January 04, 2019

There’s something so comforting about that first sip of coffee: you feel warm from the inside out and energized to take on the day. Caffeine can’t be bad for you, right?

The short answer is: maybe? And it depends on who you are. 

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound that gives coffee and colas that energy-boosting zing – and it seems like doctors have mixed emotions about it. There have been reports showing that caffeine can deliver health benefits such as fighting inflammation, boosting metabolism, and possibly cutting risk for stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and heart failure. And it’s a good thing, since as many as 80 – 90% of Americans consume caffeine on a regular basis. 

On the downside, too much caffeine can give you the jitters, make you lose sleep, raise your blood pressure, and can even cause a headache. It can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and use calcium, the mineral that is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Some people have medical conditions that can be made worse by caffeine. In rare cases, people can overdose on caffeine (but it’s usually when taken in pill form).

And caffeine addiction is a real thing. Over time, your body can develop a dependence on it, and when you don’t get it, you develop flu-like symptoms that include fatigue, headache, muscle soreness, lack of mental focus, and dehydration. 
 

Who Should Limit Caffeine

  • Those prone to migraines
  • Anyone with high blood pressure
  • Children and teens
  • Ulcer suffers
  • Those with irregular heart rhythms


Who Should Avoid Caffeine

  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Require certain medications


Choose a Healthy Caffeine Source

Even if you tolerate caffeine well, some caffeinated drinks are better for you than others. If you need a little pick-me-up to get going, try some of the healthier alternatives and then avoid the rest.
 

Coffee

coffee
This rich beverage has been savored around the world for hundreds of years. Still, many drinkers find it somewhat bitter, and add sugar or creamer to ease the taste. Instead, try more healthful alternatives such as cinnamon, almond milk, coconut cream, stevia, or honey.

 

Espresso


espresso
These hot shots are actually just super-concentrated doses of coffee. Because of their tiny size, espresso shots don’t have as much caffeine as a cup of black coffee, but because it’s so potent, espresso has more caffeine per ounce. Usually consumed straight, espresso is a no-go for those with heart conditions.


Coffee-house Style Blended Coffee Drinks


coffee drinks
Enjoy these sweet treats in moderation. Even if they provide the right dose of caffeine, they’re filled with sugar – many of them pack as many calories as a milkshake. All that sugar + a dose of caffeine = plummeting energy levels after the buzz wears off. 


Energy Drinks


energy drinks
Drink these only occasionally – or better yet, not at all. Some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee. In addition, most are loaded with sugar and herbal stimulants for extra kick. It’s too much for many people – in 2011, energy drinks sent more than 20,000 people to the emergency room.


Tea


teaSome teas will get your motor running, and also provide additional health benefits. Even though it doesn’t have quite as much caffeine, both green tea and oolong tea are good sources of antioxidants, which are thought to protect your cells from aging and disease. These teas taste very different from the herbal teas you might have tried; spoon in some honey or stevia to healthfully sweeten your cup. 


Soda


sodaA 12-oz can of soda has about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee, so you’re not going to get a lot of bang for your buck. Like blended coffee drinks, these should only be consumed as an occasional treat, since sodas are very high in sugar. Diet sodas aren’t much better: there have been (inconclusive) studies linking them to serious health conditions and weight gain. 


If You’re After Long-Lasting Energy…
Coffee will give you a boost, but for energy that lasts throughout the day, there’s no substitute for good nutrition, exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep!