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April 18, 2016

Do You Drink More Than You Think?

by Amanda MacMillan

There’s an old expression that all things are best in moderation, and that seems to be especially true for alcoholic beverages. Moderate drinking may even have some health benefits, like possibly lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and gallstones. But the key work in that sentence is moderate. Unfortunately, given how often alcohol is part of socializing, dining out and even professional networking, it’s all too easy for people to slide past responsible consumption into problem territory. So in honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, here’s a quick guide to moderate drinking. To your health!

What “moderate” means

The experts define moderate drinking as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

What “a drink” means

Of course, the above definition only applies if you’re pouring (or being poured) standard-sized drinks. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of regular beer – not the 16-ounce pint that bars often serve on draft. (If you have three pints in one sitting, you’ve actually consumed the equivalent of four drinks!) One drink is also equal to 5 ounces of wine, or 1-1/2 ounces of hard liquor.

How fast you drink counts, too

Researchers say that binge drinking is the main culprit in terms of chronic health problems, car accidents and other adverse consequences associated with alcohol. Binge drinking is defined as having more than three drinks in a two- to three-hour period if you’re a woman, or more than four drinks in the same time span if you’re a man.

The health benefits of talking

Concerned about your kids and alcohol? Talking can help keep them safe: Teens who talk with their parents about the dangers of drugs and alcohol are 50 percent less likely to use these substances illegally than those who don’t have such conversations.

What to do if you don’t like what you see

If you’re at all concerned about your drinking habits, know that you’re not alone: Approximately 17 million adults in the United States have a problem with alcohol, and the vast majority of them are not alcoholics. Support groups and a variety of treatment options can help. For more information and an easy self-assessment tool, check out the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website Rethinking Drinking, or ask your doctor to recommend resources near you.