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Alcohol and Health

Understanding Different Types of Alcohol Blood Tests

Published:
July 21, 2023
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7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 21, 2023
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7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 21, 2023
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7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 21, 2023
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7 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
July 21, 2023
·
7 min read

You’re celebrating your best friend’s wedding. The atmosphere is brimming with laughter and glasses clinking in unison as toast after toast is shared. Amid the merriment and camaraderie, however, we often overlook an integral part of this tableau — alcohol — and its potential long-term impact on our health. 

Let’s consider how alcohol blood tests can help us monitor and manage our relationship with this ubiquitous but potent beverage. From the CDT test to the GGT test, let’s take a closer look at what blood test shows alcohol use.

The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Test

Our first stop on this exploratory journey is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.  Many of us have heard of this test, but do we truly understand it? What does BAC measure? BAC measures the concentration of alcohol present in your bloodstream, expressed as a percentage. A BAC reading of 0.10% signifies that there is one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood in the body. 

The blood alcohol test is a tool used by law enforcement agencies and medical personnel to gauge levels of immediate intoxication. As alcohol impairs our ability to function, from blurry vision to slow reflexes, understanding our BAC can be a literal lifesaver. While the legal limit for driving varies across countries, it typically ranges from 0.05% to 0.08%. How long does alcohol stay in blood? It decreases by about 0.015% per hour after the last drink, but the metabolites can stick around for up to 12 hours.

The Carbohydrate-Deficient Transferrin (CDT) Test

Less well-known than BAC, the carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) blood test is a biomarker used to detect heavy alcohol consumption over the preceding one to two weeks. This is one of the major blood tests for alcoholics — elevated CDT levels in the body can indicate potential alcohol misuse or an alcohol use disorder, making it an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals diagnosing and managing these conditions.

Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase (GGT) Test

Next, we turn to the gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) test. Similar to the CDT test, GGT is a biomarker that shows elevated levels due to heavy or long-term alcohol consumption. GGT levels rise only after several weeks of sustained heavy drinking. This makes the GGT test an essential tool for healthcare professionals looking to detect chronic alcohol misuse or longer-term alcohol-related health problems. Healthcare providers glean valuable information in treating liver cirrhosis from the GGT test. Alcohol has a significant impact on the liver, and this is the best way to determine the type and extent of damage.

The Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV) Test

The final marker we’ll examine is the mean corpuscular volume (MCV) test. The MCV test measures the average size of your red blood cells. Enlarged red blood cells — or macrocytosis — commonly occur with long-term heavy drinking. While an elevated MCV is not specific to alcohol use and can be due to numerous causes, including vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disease, it helps doctors get an overview of a patient’s overall health, and it could be an initial indicator that prompts further investigation into possible alcohol misuse. In other words the MCV alcohol test casts a broad net to pick up on health issues — including substance misuse — from the blood.

Avoiding Adverse Outcomes From Alcohol

Now that we understand the different types of alcohol blood tests, what can we do to ensure our journey with alcohol remains on a healthy path, free of dangerous detours? Here are some tips:

  • Know your limit. Alcohol tolerance varies widely among people. It's essential to understand how much you can handle and never to exceed those limits. Regular self-checks and open communication with healthcare providers can keep things in control.
  • Stay hydrated. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body. Drinking water before, during, and after alcohol consumption can help counteract some of its negative effects.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. A healthy diet can protect against alcohol-related health issues, particularly those related to the liver. Including foods rich in vitamins, proteins, and other essential nutrients can improve liver health and overall well-being.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity has numerous health benefits, including strengthening the body's resistance to some of alcohol’s adverse effects.
  • Practice mindful drinking. Being aware of what and how much you’re drinking can help prevent overconsumption. Opt for lower-alcohol drinks, enjoy your beverage slowly, and/or alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

It's clear that knowledge and awareness are our strongest allies in maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol. By understanding these tests and incorporating mindful drinking practices, we can enjoy our celebrations without compromising our health. Here’s to a stronger, healthier future!

You’re celebrating your best friend’s wedding. The atmosphere is brimming with laughter and glasses clinking in unison as toast after toast is shared. Amid the merriment and camaraderie, however, we often overlook an integral part of this tableau — alcohol — and its potential long-term impact on our health. 

Let’s consider how alcohol blood tests can help us monitor and manage our relationship with this ubiquitous but potent beverage. From the CDT test to the GGT test, let’s take a closer look at what blood test shows alcohol use.

The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Test

Our first stop on this exploratory journey is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.  Many of us have heard of this test, but do we truly understand it? What does BAC measure? BAC measures the concentration of alcohol present in your bloodstream, expressed as a percentage. A BAC reading of 0.10% signifies that there is one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood in the body. 

The blood alcohol test is a tool used by law enforcement agencies and medical personnel to gauge levels of immediate intoxication. As alcohol impairs our ability to function, from blurry vision to slow reflexes, understanding our BAC can be a literal lifesaver. While the legal limit for driving varies across countries, it typically ranges from 0.05% to 0.08%. How long does alcohol stay in blood? It decreases by about 0.015% per hour after the last drink, but the metabolites can stick around for up to 12 hours.

The Carbohydrate-Deficient Transferrin (CDT) Test

Less well-known than BAC, the carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) blood test is a biomarker used to detect heavy alcohol consumption over the preceding one to two weeks. This is one of the major blood tests for alcoholics — elevated CDT levels in the body can indicate potential alcohol misuse or an alcohol use disorder, making it an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals diagnosing and managing these conditions.

Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase (GGT) Test

Next, we turn to the gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) test. Similar to the CDT test, GGT is a biomarker that shows elevated levels due to heavy or long-term alcohol consumption. GGT levels rise only after several weeks of sustained heavy drinking. This makes the GGT test an essential tool for healthcare professionals looking to detect chronic alcohol misuse or longer-term alcohol-related health problems. Healthcare providers glean valuable information in treating liver cirrhosis from the GGT test. Alcohol has a significant impact on the liver, and this is the best way to determine the type and extent of damage.

The Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV) Test

The final marker we’ll examine is the mean corpuscular volume (MCV) test. The MCV test measures the average size of your red blood cells. Enlarged red blood cells — or macrocytosis — commonly occur with long-term heavy drinking. While an elevated MCV is not specific to alcohol use and can be due to numerous causes, including vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disease, it helps doctors get an overview of a patient’s overall health, and it could be an initial indicator that prompts further investigation into possible alcohol misuse. In other words the MCV alcohol test casts a broad net to pick up on health issues — including substance misuse — from the blood.

Avoiding Adverse Outcomes From Alcohol

Now that we understand the different types of alcohol blood tests, what can we do to ensure our journey with alcohol remains on a healthy path, free of dangerous detours? Here are some tips:

  • Know your limit. Alcohol tolerance varies widely among people. It's essential to understand how much you can handle and never to exceed those limits. Regular self-checks and open communication with healthcare providers can keep things in control.
  • Stay hydrated. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body. Drinking water before, during, and after alcohol consumption can help counteract some of its negative effects.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. A healthy diet can protect against alcohol-related health issues, particularly those related to the liver. Including foods rich in vitamins, proteins, and other essential nutrients can improve liver health and overall well-being.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity has numerous health benefits, including strengthening the body's resistance to some of alcohol’s adverse effects.
  • Practice mindful drinking. Being aware of what and how much you’re drinking can help prevent overconsumption. Opt for lower-alcohol drinks, enjoy your beverage slowly, and/or alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

It's clear that knowledge and awareness are our strongest allies in maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol. By understanding these tests and incorporating mindful drinking practices, we can enjoy our celebrations without compromising our health. Here’s to a stronger, healthier future!

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