Drinking Hard or Hardly Drinking

Before I order another round…does anyone know the recommended limits of alcohol consumption? This probably isn’t something most people consider frequently. It is no secret that social events are a lot more relaxed and entertaining when alcohol is involved. I know I am guilty of enjoying a crispy lager from time to time. It makes watching my sports team lose much more tolerable.

Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force published a statement in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) on this topic. They recommend doctors to screen patients and for those who drink above the recommended limits, provide brief counseling to help them reduce their drinking. So, why is this important? Well, lately there has been a lack of discussion between doctors and their patients about their alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of injury, illnesses, and even death. According to the U.S. Preventative Task Force, unhealthy alcohol use ranks as the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

Your liver isn’t the only thing at stake when drinking too much alcohol. It also has damaging effects to your bones. Too much alcohol can kill osteoblasts, the bone-making cells, increasing your risk for osteoporosis and can make it harder to recover after suffering a broken bone. Furthermore, there is strong research that shows heavy drinking increases your risk of infection and other complications after surgery. This is incredibly important if you have seen or plan to see an orthopedic specialist in the future. Reducing your alcohol consumption can lead to a quicker and safer recovery.

But what is considered too much? No more than four drinks in a single day and 14 drinks in a week is the line drawn for men age 21 to 64, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For (non-pregnant) women and older men, the institute advises no more than three drinks in one day and no more than seven drinks in a week. Seems reasonable, right?

So, whatever your drink of choice is; beer, wine, a jumbo margarita on the rocks… at your next doctor’s appointment, do not be afraid to have this conversation with them. Even if you do not drink over the recommended amount but close to it, your doctor can offer help. If you are exposed to risky or unsafe drinking your doctor can provide short behavioral counseling interventions to reduce unhealthy alcohol use. Keeping you happy and healthy is their number one goal!


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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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