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Is a drink a day healthy?Alcohol

This answer varies from person to person...

  • People with the following conditions should not drink alcohol at all:
    • Liver disease
    • Pancreatic disease
    • Precancerous signs of the esophagus, larynx, pharynx or mouth
    • Breast cancer previously or high risk for breast cancer(2)
    • Pregnancy or breast-feeding
    • Hemorrhagic stroke previously
    • Alcohol abuse history and those with a family history of alcoholism should be cautious

  • People taking the following medications should check with their doctor before drinking any alcohol:
    • anticoagulants--warfarin (Coumadin)
    • aspirin
    • acetaminophen--as few as three drinks at one time may have toxic effects on the liver when combined with acetaminophen.
    • antibiotics
    • antidepressants
    • antidiabetes medications
    • anti-seizure medications
    • beta blockers
    • pain relievers
    • sedatives
    • sleep medication

  • People over 65 should be especially careful with alcohol. The metabolism of alcohol slows down with aging thus making the elderly more susceptible to its toxic side effects.

In the News

 


How Much is a "Drink"?

wineA drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits.

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as:

  • Men: no more than 2 drinks per day
  • Women: no more than 1 drink per day
  • People over 65: no more than 1 drink per day (4)
The Hazards of Moderate Alcohol Consumption
  • Cancer: Alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast.
    • Breast Cancer: Regular consumption of even a few drinks per week is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Those at high risk of breast cancer may want to consider not drinking any alcohol at all.(1)
    • Smoking and alcohol: The combination of alcohol and tobacco increases the risk of cancer far more than the effect of either drinking or smoking.(1)
  • Dementia and cognitive decline:
    • Moderate alcohol intake has been linked with brain atrophy (brain shrinkage).(2)
    • Binge drinking has been linked with cognitive decline later in life
  • Liver Disease/Liver Failure:
    • As few as three drinks at one time may have toxic effects on the liver when combined with certain over–the–counter medications, such as those containing acetaminophen
The Hazards of Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents.(5) Heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, cause dementia, lead to osteoporosis(3), increase the chances of developing breast and some other cancers, harm an unborn child, and contribute to depression and violence.
The Benefits of Alcohol

Studies have found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and ischemic strokes. It is also thought to possibly be protective against gallstones and diabetes type II. However, a recent study has raised serious questions about these findings. Fifty-four studies were recently analyzed by an international team of researchers who concluded that the proposed cardiovascular health benefits of light to moderate drinking may be based on nothing but a common methodological error. University of California Mar 2006

So should you avoid alcohol?

While the answer to this question varies from person to person, it does remain clear that even for the person with no contraindications to alcohol, more than moderate drinking can negate any potential health benefits.

Most experts agree that nondrinkers should not start drinking. If you already drink alcohol or plan to begin, keep it moderate - no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women and those over 65.

Support Groups
Local Support Groups for Pinellas County, Florida
References

(1) Common questions about diet and cancer from the American Cancer Society
(2) Moderate alcohol use may be associated with brain shrinkage from the American Heart Association
(3) Alcoholism and Osteoporosis National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
(4) What you don't know can hurt you from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
(5) 10th Annual Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Washington, DC, 2000.

Written by N Thompson, MSN, ARNP and edited by M Thompson, MD, Internal Medicine, Last updated August 2007

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