Who doesn’t love a nice glass of wine with a fancy dinner or over a long conversation with a good friend? During long sunny summer days, when the weather is nice, and you can sit out on a patio, watching the sunset, it seems to be the perfect combination. Or during cold winter months when you cozy up next to the fire with a glass of vino and a good book. It seems that regardless of the season, we’re always finding opportunities to consume more wine or a glass of bubbly — guilt-free, of course because drinking alcohol in moderation is healthy, right? Sorry ladies, but maybe not!
If you’re reading this article, glass in hand, don’t delete my words of wisdom before going any further. Finish your glass of wine, but please hear me out. I’m not suggesting you can’t enjoy a little vino from time to time, but do understand the meaning of “a little” and the consequences – especially for women over 50 – of drinking wine too much or too often.
Know the Facts – Buzz Kill Alert:
A standard serving is:
5oz of wine (a splash more than a ½ cup, NOT a glass full)
12oz of beer or a wine cooler
5oz of 80-proof distilled spirits
Moderate drinking for women is just 1 standard serving a day.
The negative effects of alcohol are more pronounced in women than men – females, in general, become dependent on alcohol more easily and more quickly than males.
Roughly half of all cases of alcoholism in women begin after the age of 59.
Emerging research suggests, and many experts believe, that women who drink even one alcoholic drink a day put themselves at an increased risk for several health conditions.
Heart Healthy: Yay or Nay?
The occasional serving of alcohol a couple of times a week may be OK, especially for women over 65. If that’s all you consume, you can continue without much concern. But for many of us, we enjoy 1-2 large cocktails or full glasses of wine nightly, which equates to 3 servings of alcohol a day, and that, my dear, is considered heavy and chronic drinking.
It makes us vulnerable to the following:
Cardiovascular disease – the #1 killer of women worldwide: Excessive drinking raises blood pressure and is linked to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death.
Liver disease: Women who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to develop alcoholic fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis and die from cirrhosis of the liver.
Brain Damage: Heavy alcohol consumption interferes with our cognitive function and can speed up our brain’s natural aging process, leading to dementia.
Osteoporosis: And if the above isn’t bad enough, a frequent heavy pour can disrupt our body’s calcium balance and accelerate bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Gastrointestinal Issues: Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining, contributing to stomach ulcers, heartburn, GERD, and gastritis. It also slows down the rate at which we digest our food, leading to gas and bloating.
Obesity: Alcohol contains empty calories and stimulates our appetite. Studies show that we don’t replace other calories with alcohol; instead, we consume several hundred more calories on days we drink, leading to unhealthy weight gain. FYI: Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram – carbohydrates and protein have just 4 and 9 fat calories per gram. The higher the alcohol content of your wine, beer, or liquor, the more caloric. How many calories are in your favorite drink? Use this website to calculate.
Adverse interaction with medications: Alcohol negatively interacts with several prescription and over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and other pain medications, cold, allergy, heartburn, cholesterol and blood pressure medications, and antidepressants. To see the complete list, click here.
What to Do:
If you enjoy your alcohol, limit it to 1 SERVING a day, just a few days a week, to reap its benefits. And for those that don’t drink, there’s no reason to start. Any health benefit a little alcohol may provide can be achieved from regular exercise, a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. If weight is a concern, be mindful of “unnecessary” calories you may be consuming and consider popping open a bottle of sparkling water to celebrate the holidays, the New Year, and your continued good health!
If you’re concerned about your drinking and want to make a change, check out this home-based treatment option that allows you to work with online alcohol support groups, receive online alcohol therapy, and even receive medication to stop drinking.