A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Man up: Are you drinking too much alcohol?

Graphic of man with a mustache and doctor's coatEditor’s note: This is part of a series of articles focused on health issues men need to talk about with their primary care physicians. 

You’re headed to a fish fry Friday. Then you’re ice fishing Saturday with the guys. And you wrap up the weekend with a Green Bay Packers game.

For a lot of us Wisconsinites, that’s a pretty believable weekend schedule and what else likely is true is alcohol will make an appearance – either at a bar, in the shanty or at a Packers party.

Men are more than two times as likely than women to develop alcohol dependence. Make sure you know how much is OK.

It’s simple: Use moderation

Know how much you can drink to reduce health risks? The answer: No more than one to two drinks per day.

“Drinking alcohol, for decades, has been a part of Wisconsin culture, but it’s important guys clearly understand the dangers to their health and importance of moderation,” said Dr. Eric Penniman, a Marshfield Clinic family medicine physician based in the Wausau area. “Many people are part of families in which it’s normal behavior to have six beers on Friday and then follow it up that weekend with six more beers during a Packers game.”

What’s too much alcohol?

For men under 65, keep your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day. Older than 65? No more than one drink per day.

Examples of one drink are:

  • Beer – 12 ounces.
  • Wine – 5 ounces (about a half glass).
  • Distilled alcohol (gin, whiskey, vodka, etc.) – 1.5 ounces.

Drinking: Hangovers aren’t the only problem

While some studies have suggested alcohol in moderation can have some health benefits, including cardiovascular benefits, drinking too much can lead to health issues for men. Among them are:

“Men also are more inclined to take risks than women. Those risks include driving while drunk and unprotected sex,” Penniman said. “Those risks don’t only affect you; they can potentially impact the lives of others.”

Binge drinking is NOT the answer

It may sound obvious, but often people think if they drink rarely, it’s OK to binge on the weekend. Not true, Penniman said.

Men, on average, binge drink 12.5 times each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s roughly four times more than women. Binge drinking can lead to health issues and also puts men more at risk for developing alcohol dependence, Penniman said.

Speak up about alcohol

We get it. It’s tough to talk about things like drinking too much. But it’s vital for your health to address it.

Penniman said most often male patients lie and simply say they never have more than two drinks per day.

“The key is trust,” Penniman said. “All patients need to know that any conversation with their doctor is protected by law. We as doctors don’t want to lecture you. We want to help, but we have to know the truth.”

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