DEAR DOCTOR K: I am a 42-year-old man who drinks alcohol pretty much every day. Although I don’t feel “out of control” from the amount I drink, I know it’s more than the recommended amount. How can I nip this in the bud before it goes too far?
DEAR READER: If you have just one drink a day, there’s evidence that this actually may be healthy. More than two drinks a day for men under 65, more than one a day for men over 65, or more than one a day for a woman of any age can raise the risk of alcohol-related diseases.
Like you, most people who are concerned they may be drinking too much want to cut down rather than quit altogether. For some, cutting down is possible. But others eventually find that they need to stop completely – that’s easier for them than cutting down.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests the following steps to help people cut back on their drinking:
• Put it in writing. Make a list of the reasons to curtail your drinking, such as feeling healthier, sleeping better or improving your relationships.
• Set a drinking goal. Set a limit on how much you will drink. Keep your drinking below the recommended guidelines. This means no more than one standard drink per day for women, as well as men ages 65 and older. And no more than two standard drinks per day for men under 65.
• Keep a diary of your drinking. For three to four weeks, keep track of every time you have a drink. Include information about what and how much you drink. Compare this to your goal. If you’re having trouble sticking to your goal, discuss it with your doctor or another health professional.
• Don’t keep alcohol in your house. Particularly if you have set a goal of drinking no alcohol, having none at home can help limit your drinking.
• Choose alcohol-free days. Decide not to drink a day or two each week. You may want to abstain for a week or a month to see how you feel physically and emotionally without alcohol in your life.