Do You Drink Too Much?
If you are like 1 in 7 American women, the answer is YES. Alcohol has a firm place in life in 2013 – mimosas and Bloody Mary’s at brunch, wine with dinner, beer for the game, margs with the girls after work, and the list goes on. While every outing that involves drinking doesn’t lead to intoxication, alcohol is showing up more and more often. Also more prevalent than ever is the increase for men and women in binge drinking.
This increase and the study of its effects are well documented. In fact, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 14 million, U.S. women binge drink about three times a month and imbibe about six beverages per binge. While this survey considers a “binge” to be any outing in which six or more alcoholic beverages have been drank, other sources consider it to be much more conservative than that. According to the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women who have just one drink a day are considered moderate drinkers while those who consume three to four (or more) drinks in one sitting are considered binge drinkers. Despite the discrepancies as to what binge drinking is, both assess the max per week to be around 7 drinks.
Binge Drinking and Your Health
Yet, countless women surpass this 7 drink mark with no visible problem. And for those who do experience some of the milder effects of drinking like a hangover, some might consider rallying the morning after a night with friends and a few rounds perfectly normal and easy to recover from. But hangovers aren’t the only risk. Other possible effects can range from alcohol poisoning to risky behaviors to serious long-term health issues like the development of a drinking problem and/or cancer. While not every woman who binges will experience any or all of these problems, many will. And alcoholics are not the only ones at risk for alcohol-induced problems.
Why does alcohol have such a stronger effect on women than men? For one thing, women are smaller than men, and as such, tend to have less water in our bodies to dilute the alcohol, which in turn makes every drink more potent than it would for a male. For another, women secrete less stomach enzymes. This means that our stomachs don’t digest as much alcohol in each drink which sends more of it directly into our systems, leading to intoxication faster.
So what’s the magic number? Will women who drink four drinks automatically be worse off than the one who stops at two? The answer is a gray one. The woman who drinks four will experience a stronger immediate effects like decrease in motor skills and communication ability, but what about the long term? Just as a person may not notice a drop-off cliff between drink 3 and drink 4, it’s the prolonged accumulation of damage. Binge drinking can lead to health problems for both genders but is especially tenuous for women. While women don’t need to cut out drinking, it’s essential to be smart when alcohol is involved to maintain optimal health and safety.
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