How Much Drinking is Dangerous For Your Long Term Health?

01/06/2012

Girls night photoAs the holiday season slides into January, many of us switch from sipping on booze to loading up on green juice, water, and detoxifying tea. It’s an effort to undue any damage that might have been done in December, a time when holiday parties and family time can also mean excessive drinking. It’s also a good time to reflect on our habits and decide whether 2012 could use some adjustments. 

As we age, getting drunk gets more and more unappealing. Not only do we act foolishly the day of, we’re hit with a hangover much worse than our college days. Some of us veg out when we’ve overdone it and still others feel extreme anxiety, worrying of what we might have said or done the night before. And for our long term health, we’re left wondering how much is too much? 

Drinking and Mindfulness

One of the problems with excessive drinking is that it takes away your ability to know your true self. Whether you’re drunk of the night or hungover the next day, neither is a natural state for your body. If you’re looking to cultivate a sense of mindfulness, excessive booze are out. In Ayurveda, the ancient sister science to yoga, drinking isn’t shunned entirely. In fact, drinking in very small, controlled amounts can serve to de-stress. But the amounts are incredibly controlled at 3 tbsp of wine in a sitting. One glass is considered 4 oz, so Ayurveda and Western science are separated by just 1 oz.

Pouring what you consider a glass can be deceptive. It’s best to measure it out until you have a good idea of the amount. It’s also best to drink your glass earlier rather than later because drinking wine right before bed means you’re making more work for your liver while you’re sleeping.

Alcohol Quantities 

One glass is considered safe for a women and two glasses for men, who are better able to metabolize alcohol. Anything more than this is considered excessive drinking. But this is where the issue gets a little hairy. Studies have gone back and forth on whether drinking causes or inhibits breast cancer.

A recent study followed women who drank very moderately and found that any drinking, even as little as three to six drinks per week, increased a women’s risk of breast cancer by nearly 15 percent

But at the same time, a glass of red wine per day has a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Red wine in very small servings does shield the heart from heart disease because of the resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes. The antioxidant is known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, especially with regards to heart health, but higher doses don’t shield the heart even more. 

Drinking wine photo

Photo: Polka Dot Images

For moderate drinkers concerned with heart health, this is certainly something to consider. Take a look at your family history and your current health trends and make a decision according, keeping in mind, that safe amounts are extremely small. When you’re having a glass of wine, be as thoughtful in the way you drink it as you would with your meal. Take your time and be present for every inch of the experience, this way you’re much less likely to over do it. 

Photo: Creatas

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More on Drinking
Booze Hounds: Excessive Drinking Costs Us $223.5 Billion Per Year 
How Alcohol Works 
Regular Heavy Drinking May Make You Permanently Wobbly 


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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