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Drinking and Your Health - Topic Overview

Alcohol can be a safe and enjoyable part of life. If you choose to drink alcohol, the key is to keep your drinking at low to moderate levels.

People who drink too much are hurting their health. Heavy drinking can cause all kinds of problems, from stomach and sexual problems to stroke and liver disease. It can also lead to problems at work, school, or home, and to drunk driving and violence.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive mental health services, including screening tests for depression and alcohol misuse, at no cost to you. Learn more.

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What health problems can drinking cause?

Drinking too much harms your liver, nervous system, heart, and brain. It can cause health problems or make them worse. These problems include:

Alcohol and your heart

Light to moderate drinking may actually help your heart. Research shows that people who have 1 or 2 drinks a day are less likely to get heart disease than people who don't drink any alcohol or who drink larger amounts.

But alcohol also can make heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure more likely. If you don't drink now, don't start drinking for your heart. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet will help your heart without the risks of alcohol.

How much drinking is safe?

Drinking alcohol isn't harmful unless you drink too much—and what is a safe amount for one person may be too much for another. Because of things like age, sex, weight, and health history, alcohol affects people differently. But here's what experts say:

  • For the best health:1
    • Women should have no more than 1 drink a day or 7 drinks a week. A standard drink camera.gif is 1 can of beer, 1 glass of wine, or 1 mixed drink.
    • Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day or 14 drinks a week.
    • Both men and women age 65 and older should limit themselves to 1 drink a day.
  • You are putting your health at risk if you are:2
    • A woman who has more than 3 drinks at one time or more than 7 drinks a week.
    • A man who has more than 4 drinks at one time or more than 14 drinks a week.
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