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Boozy times

In Medical Topics on July 19, 2011 at 5:29 pm

“It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth” George Burns

It will come as no surprise to hear that alcohol is a drug which is produced from fermenting sugar. But it’s an important drug for two reasons.

It’s legal and
It’s dose dependent. That means the more you drink, the more it affects you and the more likely you are to make an idiot of yourself whilst having no insight into how stupid you appear.
Most of us enjoy the odd cheeky gin and tonic or pint of lager. It’s a great way to relax at the end of the day and it’s an integral part of the social scene. It’s also a fantastic way to muster the courage to go and talk to the sexy guy or girl at the end of the bar! The most interesting thing about alcohol is that it’s effects are cumulative. If you’re ever sober and watch people drinking at a party or in a bar, you can see the change in people’s behaviour, watch then becoming more tactile and hear the change in volume they speak at. The speed at which we are affected depends on a number of factors. Alcohol once absorbed through the stomach travels in the blood stream and crosses into the brain very quickly. It will affect you much more quickly if you are drinking on an empty stomach, if you are slimmer and also if you are drinking fizzy drinks. Drinking in moderation is fine, but excessive drinking causes short and long-term side-effects

Despite changes in legislation trying to make us drink more sensibly like our southern European counterparts, we still have one of the highest rates of binge drinking in Europe. It’s a major headache for the emergency services as alcohol excess leads to violent drunken behaviour and numerous hospital admissions. Every year in the UK alone, 33,000 people die from alcohol abuse.

So given that drinking alcohol in moderation is ok, what are the safe levels? Well, men can drink up to 3-4 units per day and women can drink up to 2-3 units per day. (one unit is half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine or one spirit measure). This isn’t sexiest but is merely due to the differences in body weight, amount of fat and water between the sexes, Drinking more than these levels is dangerous. It’s also recommended that you should have at least two days off the sauce a week to let your body recover. Also you can’t store up your units and drink your weekly allowance in one go on a Friday night!

It takes about one hour to burn off one unit of alcohol.

Alcohol affects almost every system in the body and chronic misuse can cause serious illness and damage your organs as the diagram below shows.

Brain  Alcohol changes your mood and your thought processes. It causes loss of concentration, poor decision making and also gives you poor control over your movement leading to in coordination (you start to stagger around). It can make you very excitable or depressed. Under the influence of alcohol you are more likely to take part in risky behaviour, unsafe sex and increases the chance of acquiring sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. It can also make you make bizarre decisions about people you sleep with, leads to increased accidents and is a major cause of relationship breakdowns. The impact on the brain the following day leads to a hangover which can be very debilitating.

Liver and Pancreas  Alcohol can cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) which stops it working properly and can lead to destruction of the liver substance (cirrhosis) and in turn liver cancer. As the liver deteriorates, it can’t function properly turning you yellow (jaundice).It can cause the pancreas to become inflamed (pancreatitis) causing severe pain and impairment of its function

Blood Stream  Causes clotting problems leading to bleeding disorders.

Bone Marrow  Decreases your immunity meaning you are more likely to catch infections

Stomach and Digestive System  Alcohol has a major impact on the digestive system and can cause nausea and vomiting. Prolonged use can cause inflammation of the stomach lining and stomach ulcers (causing severe pain and bleeding), and diarrhoroea.

Heart  Alcohol raises your blood pressure and can lead to strokes, heart attacks and rhythm disturbances. Long term abuse can stop the heart beating properly.

Bones and joints  Chronic use can cause Gout (inflammation, pain and swelling of joints) and causes thinning of the bones which can lead to fractures.

Skin  Skin changes can occur on the face and body. Chronic alcoholics often have a big bulbous nose (rhinophyma)

Genitals  Alcohol has a major impact here. Although it increases the desire to have sex it takes away the performance as it can cause impotence. It can also lead to decreased sperm count and testosterone levels.

Nutritional  Alcohol can lead to Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Neurology  It can severely affect the nervous system causing loss of sensation and loss of coordination and function as well as tremor which can be irreversible.

Cancer  Alcohol is implicated in many cancers including liver, breast, bowel, mouth and oesophagus (food pipe)

Obesity  Alcohol is immensely calorific and causes people to put on a lot of weight. One glass of white wine is 85cals, a Gin &Tonic is 140 cals and a pint of beer is around 250-300cals. That’s the same as a chocolate bar! Alcohol also stimulates the appetite so after drinking a few pints you want to eat which increases the amount of calories you are consuming even further. Hence the archetypal drinker’s beer belly.

Clearly  Alcohol should be enjoyed but like most things………Everything in moderation.

Fatties fatties everywhere!

In Medical Topics on July 19, 2011 at 5:27 pm

America is the land where everything is big.  The buildings. The emotions. The portions and the waistlines!

In fact as a Brit in LA, I feel tiny! Ridiculously tiny. So tiny in fact that I’m worried one of these mountainous people will eat me as a snack!

But take the time to ask one of them why they are so large and you are hit with a barrage of excuses all wrapped up in a dollop of guilt.

But there is no time for guilt as it’s a completely wasted emotion, (but it is a useful lever to get you to do something about it) . It’s also no good blaming someone else for your misfortune. Instead YOU and YOU ALONE have to do something about it. And that something is nothing more than making the decision to no longer be fat.

I am constantly amazed at the bucket loads of books and articles extolling the virtues of crazy diets and how various unhinged celebrities lose weight. The more ridiculous the diets are, the more we buy into them. Hence, the “seaweed diet”, the “morning banana diet” and the “pregnant women urine diet”. One of my favourites is the aptly named “cookie diet” where you eat six special cookies and one meal a day and the weight falls off. Well it would because you are only eating 800 cals a day which is about enough to keep a hamster alive!
No one likes a dieter and no-one likes someone who preaches to everyone else about how their new diet has changed their life.

So what’s the secret? Well sad to say, if you want to shed weight there is no magic bullet and no short cut. But there is a simple equation.
Calories in minus calories expended equals calories stored.
So if you force food down your throat as if there is no tomorrow and sit on your butt watching re-runs of Beautiful people you will put on weight. Equally if you moderate your calorie intake and do some regular exercise you will lose weight. Simple. Well sort of… It is more complex than this and does depend on your genetic make-up but on the whole, observing the above will certainly make a difference. There are a small number of people, however, who have an underlying condition that can contribute to obesity such as a genetic syndrome, an underactive thyroid or excessive use of steroids. However, for most people it is all about the simple equation and control.
There are some other things I think it’s important to remember too.
• There is no such thing as a bad food – just bad diets.
• A little bit of what you fancy does you good.

Think about what you eat though. Make sure you have a balanced diet containing protein, carbohydrate and some fat. And make sure it’s rich in fruit and vegetables. Treat yourself with the odd snack too. If you ban certain foods all that will happen is that you start to crave them and then you end up binging on them. Alcohol is horrendously calorific so reducing your consumption is an easy way to cut calories. Also alcohol is an appetite stimulant so if you have three or four pints you are more likely to have a calorie laden sneaky kebab/burger/

The reason this is so important is that there is a really serious message behind all this. We are in the midst of an obesity pandemic. We measure how fat people are by measuring their weight in kg and height in metres. We can then calculate their body mass index which is WT/HT squared. The normal range is 20-25. Anyone with a BMI 25-30 is overweight and anyone with a BMI greater than 30 is obese
And here are the facts
• 60% of adults are overweight and 26% are obese
• 28% children are overweight and 15% are obese
• Surgery for obesity has rocketed by 40%
• By 2050 if nothing is done to stop this, 60% of men, 50% women and 25% of kids will be fat.

Being overweight isn’t just a vanity issue. It brings serious health risks too and causes

1. heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes
2. breathing difficulty
3. Diabetes
4. Varicose Veins
5. Gallstones
6. Bone and Joint problems
7. Psychological problems
The more overweight you are, the more complications you get and the shorter your life. People with lower BMIs live longest. If you are 10% overweight as a man, you have a 13% increased risk of death. If you are 20% overweight it rockets to 25%.

So thinking about what you’re eating and enjoying what you are eating is very important. But it’s also vital to make exercise fun and not a boring chore. Raising your heart rate burns calories so quick walking, running, football, rollerblading etc are all good. Sex also burns a lot of calories!

You can treat yourself too but you will have to make up for it. Life is too short not to eat chocolate occasionally.