Celebration In Moderation

Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Carnival. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is often a time of celebration with food – and drink – to excess. While one day might not set back your health, making excess a habit, especially excess drinking, certainly will. Here are some guidelines:

A glass of wine at home often symbolizes a pat on the back at the end of a long day of juggling job, family and other obligations. But if that single drink turns into two or three on a regular basis, you may be facing a serious problem. According to several studies, educated, professional women are particularly prone to overindulgence. One, conducted by Britain’s National Health Service, found that women from managerial or professional backgrounds are 19% more likely to drink heavily at home; another study, from the University of Lancaster in the U.K., shows that the higher the household income, the higher the alcohol consumption among women.

These and other studies have also indicated that the likelihood of secret forms of drinking increase with a woman’s age. Knowing how much is too much and recognizing that you may have a problem are crucial first steps in preventing alcohol abuse. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Is One Enough?: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, moderate alcohol consumption is defined for women as having up to one drink per day. A couple of things to bear in mind, however: First, even moderate alcohol intake is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes. And second, if you’re drinking with a male companion, remember that the moderate level of consumption for men is twice that of women. Be careful about matching him drink for drink.

Alcohol Is Alcohol: In the U.S., one drink is defined as 14 grams of pure alcohol, the amount generally found in 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine and 1.5-ounces (one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits such as gin, rum, vodka or whiskey. Translation: Sipping two glasses of wine is no safer than downing two shots of liquor.

Awareness Matters: The best way to prevent over-drinking is to remain aware of how much you’re actually consuming. Before meeting friends or dining out, decide to limit yourself to a single drink. Note that the recommendation is only one drink per day—it is not an average over several days. This limit may even be too high for those with certain medical problems or who are older. Talk with your doctor about the limit that’s right for you.

Address the Problem: If you experience any of the warning signs of a drinking problem, the best solution is not to reduce alcohol consumption, but eliminate it altogether—and to seek professional help. These signs include:

  • Drinking alone when you feel angry or sad
  • Drinking after telling yourself you won't
  • Arriving late for work due to drinking
  • Experiencing hangovers
  • Concern from family and friends

No doubt you’ve heard the old adage, “Everything in moderation.” The key to a healthy relationship with alcohol may be keeping that in mind.

Help in Your Community

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. The primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. For more information visit the AA website at alcoholics-anonymous.org.


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