With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, images of green beer come to my mind. So let’s spend some time talking about the health benefits and risks of drinking.
Binge drinking is never a good thing, but alcohol in moderation is actually good for your health. Some of the reported benefits include a decreased risk of heart attacks and improved good cholesterol (HDL) levels. The recommendations from most major medical organizations are to limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink/day for women and 1-2 drinks/day for men to reap the cardiovascular benefits.
Why is the recommendation gender-specific?
Women tend to have less water in their bodies making them more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. In addition, women may also have less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, so one glass has a longer effect.
Do women take higher risks by drinking?
There is an increased risk of breast cancer in moderate (3-6 drinks/week) female drinkers younger than 50 years old. The risk increased by 51% when females drank two drinks/day. This may outweigh any benefits drinking may provide. Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer or are concerned about their own risk should limit consumption to less than 2-3 drinks/week).
You may need to skip alcohol all together if you have any liver disease (including hepatitis C), many types of cancer, poorly controlled high blood pressure, peptic ulcer disease or are pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you think your drinking is becoming a problem.
About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.