Drinking is different for women

What happens in your body after you drink a cocktail is very different from what happens in a man’s body. It’s not fair, but so it goes: Your body registers the ill effects of alcohol quicker, from feeling tipsy (and being too impaired to drive) faster to experiencing physical damage like cirrhosis. In fact, women who are heavy drinkers are at increased risk of high blood pressure, damage to the pancreas and liver disease.

All that adds up to moderate drinking being the only drinking women should do. Sure, a glass of red wine per day seems to combat heart disease. The problem is that any more than that can put your health in jeopardy. Even with just one drink per day, new studies show that your risk of developing breast cancer gets a little higher.

Keeping consumption moderate

There are a lot of good reasons to stick to what all the docs and researchers call moderate consumption. But what does that mean exactly? For women, “moderate consumption” means no more than one drink a day.

What truly constitutes one drink might surprise you, especially if you’re drawn to margaritas as big as your head or very high proof beer. Typically, though, a drink means

  • One 12-ounce beer or wine cooler
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof alcohol

A restaurant cocktail can very easily have two or even three times the amount of alcohol considered a drink, and if you have big wine glasses, pouring yourself more wine than is recommended is awfully easy.

It’s worth taking a look at a measuring cup and figuring out exactly what constitutes a glass of wine or a shot of alcohol. You might be surprised, and if you’re a regular drinker, you might be hurting yourself.

Is my drinking a problem?

If you drink four or more drinks on any given day or eight or more drinks in a typical week, you’re at greater risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. Some signs that drinking is becoming an issue for you include the following:

  • Missing work or skipping child-care responsibilities because of drinking.
  • Drinking and driving, which includes “buzzed” driving.
  • Having been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Strong cravings for alcohol.
  • Not being able to stop drinking once you start.
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety.

Certain factors might make you more susceptible to alcoholism, like the following:

  • Parents and siblings who have problems with alcohol.
  • A partner who drinks heavily.
  • History of depression.
  • Childhood physical or sexual abuse.

If you’re concerned that your drinking is becoming a problem, err on the side of caution and cut back — for your health. And if you want help to address your drinking, Alcoholics Anonymous is a great soce of support. You can also contact the St.Vincent Stress Center, which runs several successful addiction treatment programs.

If you have questions about alcohol consumption — or any other health concern — call 317-338-4-HER to talk to a registered nurse or use this form to talk to me directly.

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