Caffeine is a drug to which more than half of all Americans are addicted. On average, we drink at least two and a half cups of coffee a day, or 425 mg of caffeine.
Because caffeine acts as a stimulant, we consume it in order to have more energy but the quick fix it provides usually only lasts for a few hours, leaving us with greater fatigue and irritability once its effects wear off.
Typically, when this happens, we reach for another cup of coffee to keep us going. The result is a roller coaster of ups and downs that, over time, can result in a number of health hazards.
While caffeine in moderation (200 mg or less per day) is relatively safe, the regular consumption of greater amounts can result:
– Elevated blood pressure;
– Increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis;
– Poor sleep patterns;
– Anxiety and irritability;
– Impaired circulation;
– Urinary frequency
– Gastrointestinal disorders.
Caffeine also causes loss of calcium from muscle cells and can interfere with the blood clotting process by decreasing platelet stickiness. Taken in moderation, however, caffeine has been shown to enhance mental functioning, improve both alertness and mood, and reduce risk for gallstones. It appears that 200 mg or less of caffeine per day maybe safely tolerated by most individuals.
If you consider yourself addicted to caffeine, the best way to break your habit is to reduce your intake very gradually, over a period of a few weeks or even months. Start by substituting noncaffeinated drinks such as herbal tea or a roasted grain beverage for one of your normal cups of coffee each day.
Over time, cut back further while increasing the number of substitute beverages, and beware of possible withdrawal symptoms such as headache, nervousness, and irritability. Typically, these will pass within a day or two. Also avoid other caffeine sources, such as soft drinks (particularly colas), cocoa, chocolate, and nonherbal teas.
Alcohol is another example of a substance that when taken in moderation may enhance health but when consumed in excess can cause a variety of serious problems. A growing body of research now indicates that one or two beers or a glass of wine per day can be beneficial to health as a way to relieve stress and to improve digestion. In fact, studies have shown that complete abstainers from alcohol have a slightly shorter life expectancy than those who drink in moderate amounts.
Unfortunately, for many men especially, alcohol and moderation usually “don’t mix.” Although most people drink in order to feel better, evidence indicates that alcohol can significantly contribute to feelings of depression, loneliness, restlessness, and boredom, according to studies conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. In addition, very moody people are also three times more likely to be heavy drinkers (three or more drinks per day).
Aside from the social stigma surrounding excessive alcohol consumption, too much alcohol can contribute to:
– Increased blood pressure;
– Colon, stomach, breast, mouth, esophagus, laryngeal, and pancreatic cancers;
– Gastroin testinal disorders;
– Impaired liver function;
– Impaired mental functioning;
– Behavioral and emotional dysfunctions.
If you are having difficulty in bringing your alcohol consumption under control, seek the help of a professional counselor .
Salt is another ingredient that is far too prevalent in many diets, and it poses particular dangers for certain people who suffer from high blood pressure. Many of us have been conditioned since childhood to crave salt, but its overuse draws water into the bloodstream. This, in turn, increases blood volume, causing higher blood pressure levels. Too much salt also upsets the body’s sodium potassium balance, thereby interfering with the lymphatic system’s ability to draw wastes away from the cells.
Although some salt can be used in cooking, a good rule of thumb is to avoid adding salt to your food once it is served.