By Sharon Lewis

The average person probably has more opportunities to participate in social gatherings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than at any other time of the year, with family gatherings and company holiday parties being more common. Along with those social gatherings comes the over-consumption of alcohol for many. If you have a body, you need to know how to best care for it. Here are some guidelines for consuming alcohol that will allow you to maintain your health as well as enjoy your party.

Medical guidelines say that people should drink in moderation. Since moderation means different things to different people, let’s define it. In general, drinking in moderation means one drink per day for women and two for men, as our bodies metabolize alcohol differently because of physical size and gender. Not fair, just a fact. There is a daily recommendation and the weekly recommendation—however, saving up all your drinking for one day cannot maintain your health. Why? Because, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “specifically, more than four or five drinks for women and men, respectively, within two hours — is considered binge drinking.” 

Did you know that consuming too much alcohol increases your cancer risks? According to the Healthline article “How Many Drinks Per Day and Per Week Is Too Many?,” five to six percent of cancer deaths or new cancers worldwide are tied to alcohol use. Additionally, the article indicates that “in the United States, about 19% of new cancer cases are linked to smoking and up to 9.5 % to obesity.” The article also states that one to three alcoholic drinks per week is fine, but staying at three drinks per week is healthiest. 

While there are guidelines for limits on drinking, there are also benefits to consuming alcohol. There is a body of research that says that drinkers have better immune systems and stronger bones, and women who drink within the guidelines have a lower risk of diabetes. 

Most of the research on alcohol is focused on heart health. Sandra Gonzalez, PhD instructor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says that “Alcohol benefits your heart by reducing inflammation, the hardening and narrowing of your arteries, and the formation of blood clots — all factors associated with coronary artery disease.” These benefits only hold for those who drink in moderation.

Tricks for drinking a healthy amount

  • Be aware that consuming more than two to three drinks per day increases your risk for cancer and heart problems.
    • To keep your cancer risk low, cap yourself at one drink per day for women and two for men. Stick to the daily limit. Just because you didn’t drink yesterday doesn’t mean you get two to four drinks today.
    • One drink is considered to be 12 ounces of regular beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor, or 5 ounces of wine.
    • Be sure to measure out that booze, especially wine.
    • Buy smaller wine glasses. Larger ones increase your chances of drinking more.
    • Mix in sparkling water to make your drink last longer.

According to Harvard Health Publishing for Harvard Medical School, there are several specific reasons for one not to drink.

Common medical reasons not to drink

  • If you take the blood-thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin), alcohol can trigger unwanted bleeding.
    • If you are struggling to control your blood pressure, two drinks a day could noticeably raise your numbers.
    • If you have balance problems, be cautious about how much you drink. It puts you at risk of falls.

We are rapidly approaching 2024. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live a happier, healthier, more productive life. Don’t forget to focus on your health and wellness in the coming year!

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