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December 26, 2011

Drink Less Monday

With the numerous parties as well as stresses of the holiday season, alcohol consumption in America sharply increases during the month of December. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while moderate drinking does not harm most healthy people, excessive drinking (which includes heavy drinking and binge drinking) can increase the risk for numerous health and social problems, including unintentional injuries, violence, abuse, liver and heart disease, strokes, depression, alcoholism, stomach bleeding, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. Moreover, the CDC states that nearly 79,000 deaths in the U.S. each year can be attributed to excessive alcohol use.

Moderate drinking is typically defined as having no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men. One drink consists of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor. Anything above these limits is considered to be heavy drinking and more than 4 (for women) or 5 (for men) drinks during a 2-hour period qualify as binge drinking. The benefits of drinking less extend beyond merely preventing the aforementioned negative effects associated with excessive alcohol use. Consuming less alcohol can also save money and reduce one's total calorie intake, as the average drink contains at least 100 calories per serving.

As always, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, those under age 21, designated drivers, recovering alcoholics, and those with health conditions or medications that are worsened or incompatible with alcohol should refrain from consuming alcohol. Otherwise, healthy adults should limit their alcohol consumption to moderate amounts in order to preserve not only their own physical, mental, and economic wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of those around them.

As David Jernigan, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society explains, “When it comes to alcohol, for persons above age 21 the general public health message is ‘less is better.’ There are far better ways to protect your health and enjoy the season than excessive alcohol use.” Thus, instead of the extra cocktails or martinis this holiday season, why not share a new outside activity, healthy recipe, or cheerful game with family and friends?

For more information about drinking in moderation, visit the CDC website.

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.