Summer has finally arrived and many are enjoying the beautiful weather by getting together with friends and family, heading out to patios, barbecues, and cottages to have fun and relax. For many, this also means getting together to enjoy a refreshing drink – from wine to beer, it’s your pick.
Regardless of the time of year however, many of us enjoy consuming alcohol in social settings, for celebrations and holidays, and when alone at home with a good meal or just to “relax”. It’s not a surprise to learn that Canadians enjoy drinking, as 75.9% of the population is estimated to consume alcohol regularly, while 23% drink heavily. Usually, if you’re careful and responsible, the worst that can happen after indulging and having a few alcoholic drinks is that you’ll be left with a hangover and possible regret after suffering through some embarrassing incident.
Despite how fun alcohol can be however, we must remember that it may still be problematic, especially if we drink in excess.
Although many of us are aware of the negative social effects of drinking, as well as the consequences we may face if we are not careful and responsible, it is all too easy to neglect the health effects that come with drinking. Importantly, these negative health effects are not confined to the realms of underage drinking, drinking and driving, drinking while pregnant, and alcohol dependence. Rather, they impact us in several ways.
Among Canadians, alcohol is the most consumed psychoactive drug after coffee and its related disorders are the leading causes of hospitalization across the nation. While many of us are aware that drinking can impact one’s behaviour and put a person at risk of alcohol poisoning, it is important to note that drinking has an impact on an array of body systems, as shown in the diagram below.
Aside from the effects that alcohol has on one’s body and behaviour, drinking also has many long-term health impacts. Drinking is related to a number of diseases and conditions, including: diabetes, stroke, STIs, liver disease, brain damage, stomach ulcers, mental health disorders, and various cancers among others.
If you do plan to drink, remember to follow Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADGs) to reduce your long-term health risks. Based on your sex, LRADGs recommends that:
- Women should drink a maximum of 2 drinks a day, up to 10 drinks a week
- Men should drink a maximum of 3 drinks a day, up to 5 drinks a week
According to these guidelines, one drink refers to:
- 5% alcohol in a 12-ounce beer or cooler
- 10-12% alcohol in a 5-ounce wine
- 16-18% alcohol in a 3-ounce distilled wine
- 40% alcohol in 1.5-ounce liquor
- Do not drink on an empty stomach
- Do not exceed your limit of alcohol tolerance (know your limit and stick to it)
- Do not have more than 3 drinks within the span of 3 hours (drink slowly)
- Do not mix alcohol with medication
- Do not drive
In the increasingly hot weather, it is also important to be aware that alcohol is a diuretic that can leave you dehydrated. When planning to drink, remember to have some water as well!
I hope your summers are all off to a great start. Have fun and drink responsibly!