I’ve read lots of studies indicating that moderate alcohol use, which means one drink or less a day for women and two drinks or less a day for men, is beneficial for heart and overall health. I never doubted that because I myself is a moderate drinker – I always enjoy some beer or wine after dinner.
The new study, however, broke my illusion of “healthy moderate drinking.”
Alcohol and the heart: why are previous studies inaccurate?
Previous observational studies have shown that people who consume moderate amount of drinks per day tend to have lower rates of heart disease. But the studies can’t prove cause and effect.
Although moderate drinking and lower risks of heart disease are positively related, there are some factors that should be considered.
1) Light-to-moderate drinkers tend to be educated and relatively well-off, so they are more likely to have heart-healthy habits that may explain their lower risk.
2) Non-drinkers may have underlying health problems that led them to stop drinking, which can also confound the results.
Alcohol effects on older adults
The ability of metabolizing alcohol declines with age, meaning that two drinks in your 70s will raise your blood alcohol to a higher level than they do in your 30s.
What’s more, older people tend to take more medicines than younger individuals do, blood pressure medications in particular. The medicine may interact with alcohol, causing potential dizziness because of low blood pressure.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society, the recommended alcohol intake is no more than a single drink per day for people over 65 years old.
What you should do
Although drinking may help relieve anxiety and stress in a period of time, alcohol is actually a depressant and can leave you less motivated to cope with stress in more effective, healthier ways.
Drinking before bed can help fall asleep, but it often disrupts sleep later in the night, and causes poor sleep quality, which, together with stress, contributes to heart disease.
Try to cut back on your drinking in these ways:
Keep a drinking diary. Write down what and how much you drink for several weeks to get a sense of how much you usually imbibe.
Keep alcohol out of your house. This can help you to limit your drinking to restaurants and social occasions.
Dilute and drink slowly. Dilute your wine or cocktail with sparkling water and ice. Sip it slowly.
Drink only with meals. Never drink on an empty stomach.
Establish alcohol-free days. Choose a few days per week to abstain completely from alcohol.