Weigh Risks Against Benefits of a So-Called Occasional Drink

It can be confusing following the sometimes-contradictory information about whether or not drinking in small amounts can be good for your health. Some studies suggest women could reduce their heart disease risk by having one glass of red wine a day, yet you should consider the very real risks associated with the overconsumption of alcohol.

As a woman, your body is much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and more easily damaged than a man’s body. Because women have less water in their body than men, alcohol doesn’t dilute as much and more of it gets absorbed into the blood. Women also tend to be smaller and have a harder time metabolizing alcohol. That is why women suffer greater physical damage and often become more intoxicated than men when they drink identical amounts of alcohol.

While casual drinking is not a problem for most people, it is important to be aware of signs that you may have a problem. For instance, if you regret things you’ve said or done when under the influence, this may be a signal that you need help. Another sign of alcoholism is that no matter how many promises you make to yourself about quitting or cutting down, you keep drinking.

Other signs of abuse include:

• You’re uncomfortable when alcohol or other drugs are not available.

• When faced with a problem, your immediate reaction is to drink or use other drugs.

• It takes more alcohol or other drugs than it used to to get the same effect.

• You remember how last night began, but not how it ended.

• You’ve arrived late or missed work or school because of your substance-abusing behavior.

• You’ve been arrested for driving under the influence.

• You’re angry or alarmed when others mention your substance-abusing behavior.

• Your hands shake in the morning, or you feel you can’t make it through the rest of the day without drugs or a drink.

• You feel alone, scared, miserable and depressed.

If you want to drink alcohol, limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day. One drink means one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 12-ounce beer, or one 1.5-ounce shot of distilled liquor. If you are pregnant, don’t drink at all. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the leading known causes of mental retardation. Alcohol abuse can also put you at risk for devastating social and physical consequences.

When reading about the next study to tout or dismiss the health benefits of drinking red wine, just put it in context and remember the other health consequences alcohol consumption can bring.

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