In many places across the globe, alcohol is a part of the culture. Italian, French, and South American wines are world-renowned; England and Ireland are known for their whiskey; while Canadians, Germans, and Americans are famous for their beer. Russia, of course, is known for its vodka.
Go into any restaurant and it’s on the menu. Most even advertise drink deals to get people in the door.
Telling a friend or acquaintance you don’t drink can lead to funny looks or responses like, “what?” and “why?”
There are some studies linking potential health benefits to moderate alcohol consumption, but the problem is that many people use it as an excuse to justify excessive drinking.
Based on what I’ve witnessed, I’ve learned that moderate drinking is more of an idea than a practice for the majority of people. Moderate drinking means one drink per day, for women (and men over 65), and two for men under 65. One drink is a small 12-fl. oz. can of beer (355 ml), 5-fl. oz. glass of wine (148 ml), or 1.5-fl. oz. distilled spirit (44 ml).
If you can drink moderately, there is some research showing it might do some good. Alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, reduce the risk of ischemic stroke, or lower the risk of diabetes. It should be noted there is no concrete evidence that alcohol does these things or if everyone who drinks (moderately) will experience these potential benefits.
If you don’t currently drink, there is no reason to start. The risks linked to alcohol greatly outweigh any benefits. Alcohol can be a slippery slope and drinking moderately has proven hard to control. After all, drinks sold in bars and restaurants tend to have more than a single serving of alcohol.
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to liver damage, some cancers, neurological problems, cardiovascular problems, social problems, gastrointestinal problems, and psychiatric problems.
Roughly 88,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from excessive drinking, making it the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Alcohol is related to 2.5 million years of potential life lost, with an average of 30 years per person. It causes millions of hospital visits each year and costs over $223 billion in health care.
The research also indicates that moderate drinking causes more harm than good in younger and middle-aged adults. The positive cardiovascular results alcohol might provide are typically found in healthy seniors who drink moderately.
If you want to improve your cardiovascular condition, alcohol consumption should not be your first choice. Instead, look to improve your diet and exercise routine. And if you like to enjoy a cold drink on a hot summer day, try and stick to one or two drinks.
“Fact Sheet—Alcohol Use and Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, March 14, 2014; http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm, last accessed April 7, 2014.
“Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits,” Harvard School of Public Health web site, 2014; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/alcohol-full-story/, last accessed April 7, 2014.
“Alcohol Use: If You Drink, Keep It Moderate,” Mayo Clinic web site, February 11, 2014; http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=housecall&pubDate=04/03/2014, last accessed April 3, 2014.