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How to Toast Without Getting Toasted

By Sandy Schroeder

Many of us welcome a glass of wine with dinner, or a couple brews with friends after work, but we may be rethinking moderation as new research comes out.

For some time, many of us have accepted the idea that a glass of wine is a healthy heart prescription, but now Harvard Health researchers are qualifying those views with statements like these.

  • Evidence that moderate drinking is food for the heart is fairly weak
  • Defining "moderate" varies a lot from one individual to another
  • Safe levels of drinking can change as individuals age

Looking Closer at Alcohol

Here are some important things to consider.

What moderate drinking really means - Sticking to one drink for women and two drinks for men as a healthy habit raises new questions. Researchers say the other healthy habits of moderate drinkers may be the reason their heart disease risks are lower. Also, one moderate drinker's four-ounce wine glass may be quite different from another's tumbler size wine glass.

How dangerous binge drinking can be - When normally moderate drinkers consume more than five drinks within a few hours, their drinking can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart rhythm problems such as atrial fibrillation. These binge drinking bouts can also open the door to chronic heavy drinking with heart failure issues such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

How age changes the effects of alcohol - Age diminishes the ability to metabolize alcohol. A drink or two for people in their 60s or 70s may raise the blood alcohol level higher than it was when they were in their 30s. Also increased medications for blood pressure, arthritis, etc., can inflate the effects of the alcohol.

Stepping Back

If you are monitoring your drinking and looking for ways to cut back, you might consider new no alcohol or low alcohol drinks and recipes for alcohol-free drinks. You can also try these tips.

Dilute as you go - At parties, drink a glass of water for each glass of wine that you drink. Or use sparkling water and ice to dial the alcohol back.

Do a drinking log - See where you stand with a two- or three-week log of your drinking. See if you just drink at dinner, or drink more on the weekends. Then consider doing a week on and a week off of drinking to see what happens. You may find you are sleeping better and having fewer headaches when you are drinking less, or the changes may be relatively minor.

Only drink with food - Never drink on an empty stomach, and consider eating before you attend a party to limit party drinks and food.

Make an honest call - As you look at it, you will know where you stand with alcohol. You may be fine with a drink at dinner, or you may be at risk for health problems as up-and-down drinking patterns with binge drinking or excessive weekend drinking emerge. If you see a problem, start working on the problem now to keep the holidays under control.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downers Grove, Ill.

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