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Think Twice Before You Drink

Think Twice Before You Drink

When you drink to your health, how much is too much?

You’ve heard that moderate amounts of alcohol can improve your heart health. However, some researchers say that even moderate drinking can increase the risk for cardiovascular and other diseases, suggesting a fine line between healthy and hazardous drinking. What’s more, as you age, your tolerance for alcohol diminishes.

What is moderate drinking?

One standard drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces (or a “shot”) of 80-proof liquor. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as up to:

Two drinks a day for men

One drink a day for women (who generally weigh less than men and metabolize alcohol more slowly)

For men and women 65 or older, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends no more than seven drinks in one week and no more than three drinks on any given day.

But even within those limits, alcohol can be risky, says Kent R. Olson, M.D., a clinical professor of medicine and pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, and the medical director of the San Francisco Division of the California Poison Control System. “Despite any benefits it confers, alcohol is still a drug. If you have a health condition, are taking medications, or are 65 or older, you are more susceptible to adverse effects.”

An alcoholic drink remains in your body for about two hours after its consumption. However, aging lowers your body’s tolerance: Metabolism slows and the body’s water content decreases. As a result, alcohol may remain in your body longer than two hours, so two glasses of wine that relaxed you when you were younger might now make you drunk.

Alcohol may also interfere with the metabolism of medications, potentially making them more toxic.

Toxin or tonic?

Before you raise your next glass, drink in these findings on how alcohol may affect your health:

• Heart. Many studies suggest that moderate drinking can lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and death from heart disease by…

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