Know your limitsAdvice from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that women don't exceed one drink per day (for example, a small glass of wine). This is classed as a 'moderate' alcohol intake, which shouldn't cause too much damage to your health if you stick to a sensible limit and don't binge drink.
The health risks of too much alcoholThere are definite health risks associated with drinking more alcohol than you should, as Dr. Radha Moghil explains. These can include mental health issues (such as anxiety, depression, dementia and confusion), fetal damage during pregnancy (known as fetal alcohol syndrome), 'fatty liver' leading to hepatitis and cirrhosis (and less frequently, liver cancer and bleeding from the stomach), heart failure and weakening of the heart muscle, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, nerve damage and muscle damage, infertility, diabetes and nutritional deficiencies.
Even in small amounts, alcohol affects women differently than men, and heavy drinking is much more risky for women than it is for men, according to NIAAA. As scary as this sounds, the good news is that the majority of it is not necessarily permament, says Moghil. "It is only when there is cirrhosis or scarry and end-organ damage (i.e. when you can see symptoms of disease in the specific organ that the chances of reversibility are lower than normal," she adds.
Cutting down your alcohol intakeIf you're worried about your alcohol intake, the sooner you do something about it, the better. Moghil recommends going to see a health professional before it's too late, even if you don't feel that your drinking is excessive. "They can help and the earlier you intervene, the easier it is to cut down and prevent irreversible long-term damage," she says.
Tips to cut back on social drinkingMany of us drink up when there's company, but watching your alcohol consumption doesn't mean you have to forgo your social life. Here are some ways to minimize social drinking:
- Alternate your alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one
- Replenish your body with fluids by drinking water
- Eat something before you drink -- an empty stomach increases the amount of alcohol absorbed by your body
- Chill out with your friends at coffee joints or other places that don't serve alcohol