It’s hard to believe the holidays are fast approaching. Who doesn’t love the celebratory mood in the air between Thanksgiving and the New Year? Oftentimes our social commitments increase, and with the additional cocktail parties, company festivities and family get-togethers, come opportunities to imbibe more holiday cheer than usual – guilt-free, of course, because drinking alcohol in moderation is healthy, right? Hum…sorry ladies, 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 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 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 1 alcoholic drink a day put themselves at an increased risk for several health conditions.
So what about the advice that drinking is good for your heart?
The occasional serving of alcohol a couple 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.
- Cancer: Chronic drinking puts us at greater risk for cancers of the breast, liver, stomach and mouth.
- 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 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 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 full 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!
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is not a substitute for medical advice.