Written by Susan Schachter, MSRDN
1. Alcohol Elevates Your Blood Pressure
When it comes to controlling our blood pressure, we know that moderating our alcohol intake is an important lifestyle choice.
More than one or two drinks in one sitting temporarily creates a rapid rise in your BP. If you already have high BP, this rapid rise could cause a stroke.
Unsurprisingly, repeated binge drinking can create long-term elevations of BP. According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined by a person having a blood alcohol level of .08% or more, which usually corresponds to 5 or more servings on a single occasion for men and 4 or more on a single occasion for women, generally within 2 hours. That could be the equivalent of 2 cocktails!
2. You May Not Know That You've Been Drinking Too Much
What is one serving of alcohol?
- 5 oz wine
- 12 oz beer
- 8 oz malt liquor
- 1.5 oz 80 proof "shot" distilled spirits or liquor (i.e. gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)
What is drinking in moderation?
- Up to one serving/day for women*
- Up to two servings/day for men*
Most of us don't realize that bars and restaurants give you a "generous pour". When drinking outside the home, it's not unusual for a glass of wine to contain 1.5 servings or for a cocktail to contain 3 servings. Even in our homes, most of us have wine glasses that are much larger than people used to use back in the day, and an optical illusion is created. We think we're drinking less than we actually are drinking!
*NOTE: This should be counted per day, not averaged over the course of a week.
3. After Partaking in Dry January, You’re More Likely to Drink Less
As you might know, lots of people make it their New Year’s Resolution to give up alcohol for the month of January. However, if you’re one of these people who partakes in “Dry January”, you might be wondering “are there any benefits beyond that month?” or “what if I don’t do an entire month?”
In a 2018 study by the University of Sussex in England, these questions drove the research. Results showed that in the months following the study, on average, the number of drinking days per week decreased, the amount of alcohol consumed on any given day decreased, and the frequency of being drunk decreased. While these results were slightly diminished for those that didn’t complete the entire month, they too experienced the benefits of abstaining from alcohol.
4. Even If You Don’t Abstain From Drinking, There Are Still Some Things You Can Do to Lower Your Alcohol Consumption
- If you're in a restaurant/bar, don't eat salty snacks because they can raise your blood pressure AND they will make you thirsty which can lead you to want to drink more.
- Don't drink on an empty stomach, because it can affect you more quickly, and the wisdom of your drinking and eating choices may be compromised.
- Try adding club soda to your wine (spritzer) or to your "shot".
- Try having your drink at the end of your meal as dessert (or after you've ordered dessert), so that it won't impact your food choices and you will only be having 1 drink.
- When you're home, take out a measuring cup, measure out 5 oz, and then pour it into a wine glass (hopefully one that approximates the size used outside of your home). Take a look at what level the wine comes to in the glass. That's a serving of wine. Now you'll know how to approximate how much you're drinking when you're out of the house.