A cold beer on a hot afternoon, a glass of wine with dinner, a brandy or liqueur to cap off the evening... Alcohol is one of life's pleasures for many people. It is estimated that 80% of Canadians consume alcohol, and of those who drink, nearly six million are considered heavy drinkers. This puts people at risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease.
What constitutes heavy drinking?
For females, this translates into drinking four or more alcoholic beverages during one event, at least once a month, while for males, that number is five or more drinks. Heavy drinking can lead to the development of alcohol use disorder, a behavioural condition that gives rise to cognitive, emotional, and physical issues that increase disability and decrease lifespan.
How to limit your alcohol consumption?
It is important to note that any amount of alcohol can have risks to your health and ‘low-risk’ guidelines should not be considered ‘no-risk’ guidelines. While Canadian experts recommend no more than 3 drinks a day for men, and 2 drinks a day for women, this amount may be too much for many older adults. The Canadian Coalition of Seniors’ Mental Health recommends a lower amount than the general guidelines. They advise that women 65 and older have no more than 1 standard drink per day and no more than 5 alcoholic drinks per week; and men 65 and older, have no more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, with no more than 7 per week. It is important to plan non-drinking days each week to avoid developing a habit.
Ways to reduce your risk of sickness or injury
If you choose to drink, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting sick or injured.
1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach, have a meal or a snack with your drink;
2. Drink slowly - don't have more than 2 standard drinks in any 3-hour period;
3. Have a glass of water or non-alcoholic, caffeine-free beverage between drinks;
4. Avoid risky situations and activities - don't drink and drive, and don't get in a car with a driver who has been drinking;
5. Check warning labels on all medications, and talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about possible interactions with alcohol;
6. Limit how much you drink.
It is also important to avoid alcohol consumption entirely leading up to and after having surgery as it can reduce heart and immune system function, prolong bleeding time, and increase the body’s stress response.
To learn more about alcohol consumption and how reducing it can be beneficial to your health, watch and read our resources below.