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The Truth About Alcohol Use Disorder

The Truth About Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder is the technical term used to describe what is more commonly known as alcoholism. It is a significant public health issue. In 2014 a study conducted by the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), it was calculated that 16.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from the disorder.[1]

Causes

There are a number of factors that have been identified, which can potentially increase a persons likelihood of being diagnosed with the disorder.

For example, underage drinking has been identified as a potential risk factor that increases the likelihood of a positive diagnosis. It potentially normalizes the act of drinking alcohol at a young age, making the child less likely to understand the potential hazards overuse can cause.

Researchers have suggested[2] that there may be a genetic predisposition that increases the likelihood of being diagnosed. Studies have shown that people with parents or grandparents who are alcoholics are over 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition compared to the general population.

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However, they have also concluded that genetics are just one part of a much larger picture. A commonly agreed upon theory is that social and environmental factors are likely to play a much more significant role than genetics. The act of living and growing up with someone abusing alcohol seems to be a higher risk factor than the genetics that have been passed on.

Despite this increased risk, the vast majority of people who grow up with parents that have the disorder do not go on to contract it themselves.

Symptoms

In order to diagnose someone with the condition, a doctor must be able to determine if a patient’s drinking patterns are detrimental to their health or wellbeing. This includes both physical harm and mental distress. Some of the symptoms are subtle, and may not be immediately obvious as harmful to a patient. But to a doctor they can be clear warning signs of a potentially escalating situation.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually performed by a doctor asking a series of targeted questions pertaining to a patient’s experiences in the past 12 months. Examples of the kinds of questions asked are:

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  • Have you ever tried more than once to stop drinking or cut down your drinking but found yourself unable to do it?
  • Have you (on several occasions) drank significantly more alcohol than you had intended without being able to control it?
  • Have you stopped doing other activities that you once enjoyed to spend more time or money on drinking alcohol?

Once the questions have been answered, diagnosis is usually straightforward. Results are provided in terms of severity and are not a binary pass/fail result.

    Treatment

    The recommended treatment depends on the severity of the condition that a patient has been diagnosed with.

    The patients with the mildest diagnoses are often advised to cut down on their alcohol intake.[3] Complete abstinence is not always required for successful treatment, and the condition can often be mitigated with a regulation of consumption.

    Patients with a more moderate or severe diagnosis are nearly always advised to avoid all alcohol intake. This is often a permanent recommendation, although in certain cases it can be presented as a temporary option; however, this is uncommon and is only considered in cases where patients are undergoing a non-alcohol related temporary traumatic experience.

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    Several self-help methods are often provided when a diagnosis is made. These are small life changes that can help a patient abstain. Some examples are:

    1. Avoiding Triggers: There are often events or times of day that are ingrained as a habitual time to drink alcohol. By avoiding situations that a patient associates with alcohol, or disrupting a daily routine that involved alcohol, a patient can reduce the chance of relapse.
    2. Inform Friends And Family: By informing friends and family of their intention to reduce or remove their alcohol intake they create accountability to the people they have told. This can help with willpower, encouraging them to resist drinking when an event triggers a withdrawal craving.
    3. Practice Saying No: One of the most difficult craving triggers to overcome is often being offered a drink during a social event by someone that does not know the patient is no longer drinking. Patients are encouraged to practice saying a phrase along the lines of “No thanks, I don’t drink,” in front of a mirror in preparation for a real-life experience. The sometimes automatic response of accepting a drink can be mitigated using this technique.

    For moderate and severe cases, group therapy is often an effective and suggested option. Free alcohol cessation classes are available around the world, the most well-known of which is Alcoholics Anonymous.

    Alcoholics Anonymous has a 12-step program that reduces the potentially daunting task of cessation into smaller, more manageable sections. The group therapy aspect of the program helps patients by adding accountability in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Patients who are members of social cessation support groups report the desire to not let down other members of the group to be a significant factor in their continued sobriety.

    Online support groups such as Hellosundaymorning.com have attempted to use technology to help patients overcome the condition. They combine a version of the 12-step program with a social media platform that has been designed to create a global support group. The efficacy of online social cessation platforms is yet to be independently verified, but the initial anecdotal evidence seems to be positive.

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    People with moderate and severe symptoms of the condition are referred to alcohol rehab centers.[4] These facilities often offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options (depending on the severity of a patient’s condition). Treatment inside the facilities involves psychological and physical evaluations, group support, and individual therapy while experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

    Health Risks

    There can be severe health consequences for patients who are unsuccessful in treating their condition and reducing their alcohol intake to acceptable levels. The severity of the conditions often depends on the amount of alcohol that is being consumed.

    Direct health consequences can include increased risk of contracting heart disease, liver disease, stroke, depression, and many types of cancer.

    Indirect health consequences are events that are a result of the patient often being inebriated more than the national average. Statistically, they are much more likely to be involved in serious car accidents, suicides, brain injuries, and other fatal accidental deaths. Annually, 88,000 people in the U.S. die from consequences indirectly linked to the condition.[5] Alcohol is the 4th most common preventable cause of death in the U.S., and over 30% of fatal car accidents involve a driver who was impaired due to alcohol.

    Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that globally, 3.3 million people (or 5.9% of all deaths) are directly related in some form to alcohol consumption. They do however state that over the past few decades consumption is declining, and the rate of diagnosis is lowering significantly.

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pexels.com

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    Elise Bauer

    Freelance Writer, Lawyer & Blogger

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

    12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

    Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

    But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

    I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

    Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

    1. Nuts

    The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

    Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

    Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

    Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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    2. Blueberries

    Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

    When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

    3. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

    4. Broccoli

    While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

    Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

    Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

    5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

    Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

    The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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    Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

    6. Soy

    Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

    Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

    Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

    7. Dark chocolate

    When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

    Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

    15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

    8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

    Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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    B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

    Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

    Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

    To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

    9. Foods Rich in Zinc

    Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

    Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

    Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

    10. Gingko biloba

    This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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    It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

    However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

    11. Green and black tea

    Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

    Find out more about green tea here:

    11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

    12. Sage and Rosemary

    Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

    Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

    When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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