Given the complexity of alcoholís effects on the body and the complexity of the people who drink it, blanket recommendations about alcohol are out of the question. Because each of us has unique personal and family histories, alcohol offers each person a different spectrum of benefits and risks. Whether or not to drink alcohol, especially for ďmedicinal purposes,Ē requires careful balancing of these benefits and risks.
Your health-care provider should be able to help you do this. Your overall health and risks for alcohol-associated conditions should factor into the equation. If you are thin, physically active, donít smoke, eat a healthy diet, and have no family history of heart disease, drinking alcohol wonít add much to decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you donít drink, thereís no need to start. You can get similar benefits with exercise (beginning to exercise if you donít already or boosting the intensity and duration of your activity) or healthier eating. If you are a man with no history of alcoholism who is at moderate to high risk for heart disease, a daily alcoholic drink could reduce that risk. Moderate drinking might be especially beneficial if you have low HDL that just wonít budge upward with diet and exercise.
If you are a woman with no history of alcoholism who is at moderate to high risk for heart disease, the possible benefits of a daily drink must be balanced against the small increase in risk of breast cancer.
If you already drink alcohol or plan to begin, keep it moderateóno more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women. And make sure you get plenty of folate, at least 600 micrograms a day.