Heavy drinking can harm breathing

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Heavy drinking

Recent research shows that more than one-quarter of the US people are excessive alcohol consumers.

Excessive alcohol drinking is associated with many health problems, such as liver cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, seizures, and high blood pressure.

In a paper recently published in Chest, researchers find that heavy drinking can also impact breathing. Loyola University Chicago and University of Nebraska conducted the study.

Researchers tested the hypothesis that alcohol use could impact several lung diseases by reducing nitric oxide levels.

Nitric oxide is a colorless gas produced by the body during respiration. It plays an important role in killing bacteria that cause respiratory infections.

Researchers examined a sample of 12,509 people (21-79 years old) from the National Health and Examination Survey between 2007 and 2012. Participants were divided into never drinkers, non-excessive drinkers, excessive drinkers, and former excessive drinkers.

The result showed that alcohol drinking comprised 3,693 (27%) of the US sample population. In addition, excessive drinkers had lower nitric oxide levels compared with never drinkers. Furthermore, the nitric oxide levels decreased across alcohol drinking groups (excessive drinkers to never drinkers).

Researchers suggest that this is the first study reporting such a link between excessive alcohol drinking and nitric oxide.

Besides protecting the respiratory system, nitric oxide can also help memory and behavior by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain, regulate blood pressure by dilating arteries, reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality and improve endurance and strength.

To increase nitric oxide in the body, people can take exercise like running or lifting weight, eat a healthy diet that includes nuts, fruits, meats and dairy, and take supplements based on doctors’ advice.

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Citation: Afshar M, et al. (2016). Exhaled Nitric Oxide Levels Among Adults With Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Chest, 150: 196-209. DOI: 10.1016/j.chest.2016.02.642.
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