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Health and Fitness News

Cutting Back on the Bottle

Why you should drink less alcohol and how to make it happen.

Why do you drink alcohol? You may love the taste and the way it helps you relax. It may bring back pleasant memories. Or maybe it’s just what you drink in certain situations. Then again, you may drink because of peer pressure or to help you have fun.

Whatever your reasons for drinking, it’s important to keep your drinking in moderation. Health experts recommend no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women. Where do you stand? You know excessive drinking puts you and others at risk for car accidents, drownings, violence, and assault. But too much alcohol can also harm your health. If you want to curb your drinking, keep reading.

The Long-Term Risks

Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to a long list of health problems. It’s proven. Drink too much, and you’re at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and liver disease. You’re also more likely to develop certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, colon, and breast.

When you drink a lot, you weaken your immune system. That causes you to get sick more often. Heavy drinking can also lead to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Your waistline also suffers. Since alcohol is high in calories, drinking too much can contribute to weight gain.

Not Too Much, Not Too Little

When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While too many drinks causes damage over time, a few drinks a week may actually benefit your health. Enjoying alcohol in moderation may reduce your risk of heart disease. It does this by increasing your good HDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Alcohol in moderation also seems to reduce insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Keeping It in Check

So how can you keep your alcohol consumption limited to safe amounts?

1. Set a goal. This could be a weekly, daily, or hourly goal of how many drinks you’ll consume. Make sure your goal is in the recommended guidelines for men and women. Your goal should also be realistic—something you can achieve. It may help to write your goal down and share it with your family and friends who can keep you accountable.

2. Take it slowly. Many people find it easier to reduce their alcohol intake a little each day. Or choose drinks made with a smaller percentage of alcohol. Little successes can motivate you toward bigger changes.

3. Create dry days. One sign you don’t have a drinking problem is that you can go days without drinking and be okay. To cut back, plan several alcohol-free days each week.

4. Think about money. Alcohol isn’t cheap. A motivating factor for you might be your budget. Set aside a certain amount of money each week to spend on alcohol and stick to it.

5. Alternate with an alternative. In an environment with lots of drinking, space out your drinks. After a beer, have a nonalcoholic beverage such as soda, juice, or water before you get another drink.

6. Trick yourself. Distraction is always helpful. When you can’t stop thinking about having another drink, do something to distract yourself. Do a hobby, call a friend, exercise, or hang out with your family.

7. Know yourself. Learn your triggers and avoid them. Maybe it’s certain situations, people, activities, or places that make you crave a drink. Avoiding triggers will lessen your urge to drink.

8. Grit your teeth. Cutting back on drinking requires some willpower. Learn to say, “No, thank you,” when offered a drink.