How much alcohol should you be consuming a day?
Unless you have religious or personal reasons, a few drinks or a glass of wine with dinner is usually not an issue. It may even be healthy for you.
A 2018 long term study conducted by US National Library of Medicine found moderate drinkers had lower rates of heart conditions. The observational study compared drinkers and non-drinkers, light to moderate drinkers (who imbibed about one to two units of alcohol a day) and found that light drinkers had better health outcomes compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.
They had lower rates of heart disease and heart attacks and lived longer. Moderate drinkers also had lower rates of diabetes, another important risk factor for heart disease although this result is less definitive.
However, the problem with drinking starts when you begin abusing the substance. According to the definition formulated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa says that drinking too much alcohol is harmful to your heart and general health. It increases health risks such as high blood pressure, heart failure, increased levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood, and some cancers.
Other serious side effects may include heart muscle damage, heart rhythm disturbances and sudden cardiac death. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can also lead to a stroke.
The foundation recommends that if you drink alcohol, then do so in moderation. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. One drink is equivalent to 340ml beer, 120ml wine, 60ml sherry or 25ml spirits
Alcohol can lessen tension, reduce inhibitions, and ease social interactions. But drinking too much can be detrimental to your health. In 2018 the World Health Organization report found an estimated 3 million people die every year because of alcohol consumption - that equates to five percent of all deaths. Booze is also a leading risk factor for early death and disability among people aged 15 and 49.
Here are tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa to make better choices:
- Mix drinks in a tall glass with lots of ice
- Use low sugar or sugar-free mixers such as soda water, light or diet sodas, sparkling water
- Limit the addition of sugary drinks by going half-half with a sugar-free option e.g. cranberry juice or lemonade with half soda water
- Rule of thumb – one drink, one water! Make sure you stay hydrated by alternating between alcohol and water
- Don’t double up! Choose singles over doubles
- Choose low-calorie options such as whiskey, dry sparkling wine, vodka, tequila, light beer, dry red or white or light wine
- Spruce up your drink with fresh lime, lemon, orange, berries, cucumber slices or pomegranate seeds