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There is substantial evidence that very moderate daily drinking reduces your risks of cardiovascular disease, unfortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests that on the whole (depending on your family history of disease) even moderate drinking may be doing you more harm than good, and anything over moderate drinking certainly is.

So if you’re drinking for heart health, weigh the cardiovascular benefits against the statistics listed below and make sure that what you’re doing makes sense.

The Health and Cancer Risks of Drinking

  • Only 3 drinks a week increases your risks of breast cancer
  • 1 drink per day raises your odds of getting mouth and esophagus cancers and 3 drinks per day increases your odds of colorectal and larynx cancers. Those who drink 4 or more drinks per day have a 300% increased risk of developing oral cancers
  • Men who drink more than 3 days per week have a 55% increased risk of prostate cancer1 and a 41% increased risk of dying from any kind of cancer. Women who drink 2 or more drinks per day have a 20% increased risk of dying from any kind of cancer
  • Men who drink 3 or more drinks per day have a 30% to 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer, whether they were cigarette smokers or not2

The Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking

Women who drink 1 drink per day and men who drink no more than 2 drinks per day experience the following health benefits:

  • A 30% to 35% reduction in coronary heart disease
  • Healthy men experience a 40% to 50% reduction in heart attack risk
  • A reduction in stroke and dementia risks3

So Should You Drink for Health?

There are pros and cons to both sides of the moderate drinking coin, and what’s right for you likely depends on your family history of disease and personal health risk profile. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor about what makes most sense for you, and if she recommends moderate drinking to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, make sure you stick to the moderate part of that drinking plan!

Anything over very moderate drinking and any regular binge drinking though is very clearly associated with an increased risk for a host of cancers and even for an increased risk of heart disease – not to mention an increased risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem. If you justify your drinking as something you do for your good health, make certain that your drinking habits support your good intentions and that your good intentions don’t give you license to indulge in a practice that actually does you more harm than good.

And if you do find yourself drinking more than a very moderate drink or two per day – you should strongly consider cutting down – and if you can’t, you should consider getting some help so that you can do what you need to do to stay healthy and happy and strong.

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Page last updated Sep 28, 2015

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