The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had some disturbing news recently about alcohol consumption: Excessive drinking accounts for one in 10 deaths amount working-age adults (20-64) in the United States. That’s 88,000 deaths a year. In fact, excessive use of alcohol shorted the lives of those people by about 30 years not only from violence and car crashes, but from heart and liver disease and breast cancer.
We’ve all heard that moderate alcohol consumption can actually be healthy. But “moderate” is a subjective term that can mean different things to different drinkers. And how many of us are actually measuring the drinks we pour, especially at a social gathering?
Health officials define moderate drinking as just one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. That means 5 fluid ounces of wine a day for women and 10 fluid ounce for men. If you’re drinking “hard” liquor, moderate means 1.5 fluid ounces of an 80-proof distilled spirit a day for women and 3 ounces for men.
Heavy drinking is considered eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more drinks a week for men. Binge drinking is four or more drinks on one occasion for women, 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men.
So as we look to improve our health, let’s all be honest and careful about our alcohol consumption. In writing about the CDC report, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Mary Pickett said most doctors consider drinking safe if it’s kept to these limits:
- For men, an average of 2 drinks per day (no more than 14 drinks per week), and never more than 4 drinks at a time
- For women, an average of 1 drink per day (no more than 7 drinks per week), and never more than 3 drinks at a time
Dr. Pickett wrote that she suspected “Americans may be seriously surprised” by the CDC’s report. “But as a doctor, I am not surprised at all,” she said. “Alcohol abuse is commonly a well-hidden habit…But we doctors see the heavy drinkers. We see them in the hospital, in the emergency room and in the clinic.”