Across the globe, there has been a decrease over the past ten years in the proportion of young people drinking, but more middle-aged women are drinking at risky and unhealthy levels and they are catching up to men when it comes to downing alcoholic drinks at damaging quantities.
The relationship between women and alcohol has become a trending topic. Women, including celebrities like actresses Kristin Davis and Jada Pinkett Smith and TV culinary personality Nigella Lawson, have advocated reducing drinking after making their decisions to do likewise and improve their own health.
Alcohol Affects Women More Than Men
Women generally experience the effects of alcohol faster and at lower alcohol levels than men i.e. if a woman drinks the same amount of alcohol than a man, her blood alcohol concentration will be comparatively higher.
Women tend to be smaller and lighter than men, and a person who weighs less or has a smaller frame will be affected to a greater extent than someone of the opposite profile. Even if a man and woman are both of the same sizes, her biological tendency of having higher fat percentage means her body water is lower than that of a man, and thus experience higher blood alcohol concentration.
The enzyme dehydrogenase breaks down alcohol in the body, but women usually have less of it, hence taking longer to process alcohol and allowing alcohol to stay in the system longer. This means they get drunk faster and recover from alcohol effects slower. Women also experience alcohol-related health problems earlier and have them more serious than their male counterparts who drink similar amounts. And worse, female problem-drinkers are less likely than men to seek help as they battle social stigma, the risk of losing child custody and a lack of help programs specifically for women.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Health?
A pint of beer, a glass of cocktail or a serving of wine may look innocent and manageable, but the calorie content is insidiously high; if you are combating weight gain, you should probably lay off the booze. Alcohol is processed in the liver into sugars and stored as fat in the hopes that you will use it one day, which sometimes never comes, of course. But beyond that, alcohol can increase your risk of developing cancer, cognitive damage and liver and heart diseases.
If you are a pregnant woman or are trying for it, you should totally abstain from it until the baby is born. Drink while expecting will allow the alcohol to go via your blood to the baby, increasing the risk of causing cognitive damage to and deformities in the baby — this is known as fetal alcohol syndrome.
If you are breastfeeding, minute amounts of alcohol passed to the infant. If you absolutely have to drink, the best is to drink after breastfeeding. But take note, it takes time for your body to completely break down alcohol; it takes about 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol.
1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. By estimation, there are:
- 2.1 units in a standard 175ml glass of average-strength wine (12%)
- 3 units in a large 250ml glass of average-strength wine (12%)
- 2 units in 1 pint (568ml) of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)
- 3 units in 1 pint (568ml) of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)
- 1 unit in a 25ml single measure of spirits (whisky, gin, bourbon, vodka etc.)
The myth about how having a bit of alcohol is good for your health has been debunked. This is why Australian guidelines recommend healthy men and women to cap it at two drinks of standard measure per day to reduce the risks of alcohol-related diseases.
Do Not Ignore The Signs
Have you been ignoring the signs every day or almost every day? If so, chances are that you are edging towards dependence, or already are. How you respond to alcohol is pretty much like you would do with drugs — if you need to drink more to experience the same effects, it means you are growing more tolerant of alcohol effects, which is an early warning that you are becoming more dependent on alcohol.
If you are facing difficulty from abstaining and reducing your alcohol consumption or drinking heavier than you used to, you may be losing control over your drinking habits.
Is your drinking hampering your day-to-day activities regularly? Are you often feeling debilitated by the effects of alcohol, such as reporting late to work, distracted by an urge to drink, loss of motivation or experiencing mood issues that make you want to turn to drinks? If so, it’s time to reassess your drinking. Alcohol is a depressant and can provide a short-term sensation of relaxation while you are drinking, but its long-term abuse can cause sleep issues, depression and anxiety.
Tightening The Alcohol Tap
If your drinking is causing you problems, it is time to be resolute about cutting it down. Your controls may include setting a hard limit of the number of drinks; setting abstinence days weekly; having non-alcoholic beverages before and between each drinks so to keep you full and satiated; taking sips instead of mouthful gulps.
For those not on a serious drinking problem yet, setting up early controls can help you overcome your growing dependence from alcohol and avoid expensive professional treatments, and improve your physical and mental well-being.