For most of my adult life, I didn’t drink much alcohol. At a wedding, I might sip a glass of champagne, but that was it. And then I met my boyfriend, Big Irv, when I was 52. Suffice it to say that he liked to drink and while he didn’t exactly encourage me to follow suit, it was an easy thing to do.
Big Irv liked to dine leisurely at nice restaurants. He liked to “pick at an appetizer” as he had a couple of martinis and as we shared the stories of our day. And then after this happy time, this happy hour, we’d order our dinner. Before long, I started to have a drink too. As an intense person who lives mostly inside of my head, it was AMAZING to learn how unkinked my knotted-up brain could get with just one cocktail. Fifteen years later, even in the aftermath of Big Irv’s death, I find that I still like to have a drink or two each week. But here’s what astounds me: The idea of having a drink pops into mind regularly and I have to fight off the impulse.
Recently I had a health scare, an “episode” that at the time looked like a stroke, but fortunately was not. When I did some research to see what steps I might take to lessen the likelihood of ever having one, I saw that drinking alcohol was not recommended. I tried to ignore that information, but within days of making the discovery, the “universe” sent me back-to-back messages on the topic of drinking. First, there was an email that referenced an article on WebMD about the increase in binge drinking among senior citizens. (Of 11,000 respondents, 10.6% had experienced binge drinking in the previous month.) Then I heard a podcast on Death, Sex, and Money called Bottled Up, where listeners of all ages told about their problems with alcohol. Now that the universe has gotten my attention, I’ve been doing some research. Here are two informative resources I’ve found.
Kaiser Permanente’s article, Alcohol Use in Older Adults spells out the issues clearly:
Bottom line: It makes sense to reduce alcohol consumption as we age.
The other resource is for all age groups. It’s a website called Rethinking Drinking from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It includes a 16-page PDF that’s rich in information. It defines “low-risk drinking” for women in this manner, while reminding us this in NOT no-risk drinking:
The PDF goes on to define terms. A “standard” drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol. To clarify they provide an illustrated definition of such a drink. As is the case with portion size in weight control, their definition of “one drink” is eye opening:
Knowing this, I have to rethink my favorite drink, the margarita. Here is my recipe: 2 ounces tequila + 1½ ounces Cointreau + 8 ounces non-alcoholic margarita mix, all poured over ice. Thus, my ONE drink is really closer to TWO. And OMG, if I have two of them in the same night, I’m leaving the “low-risk drinking” group!
As a person trying to avoid a stroke, this is not a good thing. Change is required.
For others who are likewise looking to make a change in drinking habits the NIH/NIAA PDF offers these strategies for cutting down:
And it offers these ideas for not drinking:
I know I’m lucky that my interest in alcohol is not an addiction, just a bit of a habit. And while I am not advocating complete abstinence for myself – or for others – I am advocating complete awareness. When we know the risks, we can make wise decisions. As I strive to be stroke-free, that’s what I plan to do.
As for a specific game plan, here’s mine:
Bottom line: It’s kind of hard to say goodbye to a pitcher of margaritas, but wonderful to say hello to a healthier – and hopefully longer – life.
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