With bars shuttered in parts of the United States, and social distancing affecting socializing, more cocktail hours are being held at home. But alcohol isn’t exactly part of a healthy diet, so here are few tips and tricks for knowing when to trade in your glass for a pair of walking shoes.
Is moderate drinking really good for you?
Some highly publicized studies suggest that the antioxidants in red wine can help limit the risk of heart disease, and moderate drinking can help raise your HDL, or good cholesterol. But before you break out the pinot noir and prescribe yourself a glass, here’s the reality: There’s no direct link between alcohol consumption and health benefits. Exercise actually does a better job of pumping up your HDL. And about those healthy flavonoids that are supposed to be the magic in red wine: you can get them in blueberries, grapes, and non-alcoholic grape juice, too.
What does “moderate drinking” actually mean?
“It depends” sounds like a bit of a cop out, but that’s the truth. For women, it’s no more than one drink a day; for men, two. If you’re detail oriented, that’s 0.6 fluid ounces, or a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. And about those pond-sized margaritas? They’re all but certain to contain more alcohol than a single drink. The good news? When drinkers stick to these guidelines for “moderate” consumption, only about 2% end up abusing alcohol.
How much is too much?
For women, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) considers more than eight drinks per week excessive. For men it’s more than 15. And, while that seems like a lot of drinking, keep in mind that during stressful situations, such as the current public health crisis or the aftermath of a natural disaster, people are more likely to binge, making it easy for those daily numbers to go through the proverbial roof.
Who should avoid alcohol altogether?
- Anyone who struggles with high blood pressure, has heart, liver, or pancreatic disease, or has suffered a stroke caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain.
- Recovering alcoholics.
- Pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Anyone who takes medication that reacts poorly with alcohol. Check with your primary care provider about interactions between alcohol and the medications you take regularly, including over-the-counter items and prescription drugs.
Booze in Our Bodies
While the occasional drink can be a relaxing social activity—even if we can’t be particularly social—it’s a good idea to remember the ways alcohol interacts with the body’s primary functions, including metabolism.
Knocking even a few back isn’t good for dieters, for example, because our bodies treat alcohol as their number one processing priority. That means bodies take a break from processing other nutrients—carbs and fats among them—while your liver filters out that beer or big glass of Beaujolais.
And if you regularly imbibe, alcohol consumption can lead to illness, including liver and heart damage as well as a greater risk of depression and a weakened immune system, which we’re all trying to avoid amid the pandemic.
While tossing one (maybe two) back seems to go well with being cooped up at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s a good idea to know how much and how often you’re drinking. And if the tips above aren’t enough and you suspect you or a loved one might have a problem with alcohol, we’re here to help. Contact us at 317-462-5544.