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Alcohol can be a safe and enjoyable part of life. If you choose to drink alcohol, the key is to keep your drinking at low to moderate levels.
People who drink too much are hurting their health. Heavy drinking can cause all kinds of problems, from stomach and sexual problems to stroke and liver disease. It can also lead to problems at work, school, or home, and to drunk driving and violence.
Drinking too much harms your liver, nervous system, heart, and brain. It can cause health problems or make them worse. These problems include:
Alcohol and your heart
Light to moderate drinking may actually help your heart. Research shows that people who have 1 or 2 drinks a day are less likely to get heart disease than people who don't drink any alcohol or who drink larger amounts.
But alcohol also can make heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure more likely. If you don't drink now, don't start drinking for your heart. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet will help your heart without the risks of alcohol.
Drinking alcohol isn't harmful unless you drink too much—and what is a safe amount for one person may be too much for another. Because of things like age, sex, weight, and health history, alcohol affects people differently. But here's what experts say:
Drinking has a greater effect on women because they typically weigh less. But this isn't the only reason. Women's bodies have less water than men's bodies. Alcohol mixes with body water, so alcohol is more concentrated and more "powerful" in women than in men. Think of putting a drop of red food coloring in both a small and a large cup of water. The water in the smaller cup will be much redder.
To find out if the amount of alcohol you drink could be harmful, take a short quiz:
It's important to remember that the only way to guarantee that drinking alcohol will not harm you at all is to not drink at all.
Need help cutting back or quitting?
If you're worried about your health and want to stop drinking or cut back on how much you drink, your doctor can help you. For more information about quitting drinking, see:
To get some tips on how to limit how much alcohol you drink, see:
There are certain times when drinking any amount of alcohol is unhealthy. You should not drink if:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
CitationsDepartment of Health and Human Services (2008). Substance abuse among older adults. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP), Series 26 (DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-3918). Available online: http://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-26-Substance-Abuse-Among-Older-Adults/SMA08-3918.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2005). Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician's Guide (NIH Publication No. 07-3769). Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health. Also available online: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/cliniciansGuide2005/clinicians_guide.htm.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicinePeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and AddictionChristine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as ofMay 8, 2018
Current as of: May 8, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
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