Written by Dr. Shovita Padhi & Krystle Yeung
We all know one too many drinks can lead to bad decisions and a nasty hangover. We also know better than to mix alcohol and driving. But most of us have no idea about the dangers of booze that affect us years – and even decades – after we pick up the bottle.
It takes time, but alcohol is an almost sure-fire way to set yourself up for a host of health conditions – including cancer, heart disease and stroke – and it doesn't take as much as you think. According to the Canadian Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, in order to reduce long-term health risks, women should not exceed 10 drinks a week, no more than two most days. For men, the limit is 15 drinks a week, with no more than three most days. There is no clear safe limit for alcohol intake when it comes to cancer prevention – but the old adage 'less is more' certainly applies.
For teenagers and young adults beginning to experiment with alcohol, it's easy to tune out parents' warnings, but this is an expecially crucial time to understand that booze isn't all fun and games in the long term.
Here's a preview of what alcohol can do to nine of your body systems if you continually exceed the low-risk drinking guidelines.
For men, it's generally accepted that drinking more than five drinks per occasion is considered heavy drinking; for women it's four drinks.
5.5 million Canadians are considered heavy drinkers by this standard.
One standard drink of alcohol is roughly:
one bottle of beer (341 mL or 12 oz.)
one glass of wine (142 mL or 5 oz.)
one shot of spirits (43 mL or 1.5 oz.)
In Canada, a standard drink of beer, wine or spirits has about 13-14 grams of alcohol.
Alcohol isn't always served in the standard drink measures.
Smoking and drinking alcohol together significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer.
What about the benefits to my heart?
While some evidence suggests that low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption, specifically red wine, have been linked to lower rates of diabetes, cardiovascular problems and cognitive impairments, this relationship is complicated – a growing body of research suggests that the benefits may not be directly due to alcohol and are not relevant for all individuals, ages or situations. When taken into consideration with all the other health risks that heavy drinking can pose, exercise and healthy eating are your best bet for better health - not alcohol.
This article was originally published in the Healthier You Spring 2016 magazine
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