How to Develop a Healthy Drinking Habit

August 21st 2016

For all the talk about the dangers of excessive drinking (of which there are many), we don't spent a lot of time talking about forming healthy drinking habits. And make no mistake about it — studies show that moderate drinking has health benefits.

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The health potential of drinking is dependent on the volume of alcohol you consume on a given day, multiple studies show. Two studies — one from 1990 and another from 2004 — found that people who consumed one to two alcoholic drinks per day had lower mortality rates than those who didn't drink. But people who had three our four drinks per day had a higher mortality rate than those who didn't drink or who drank moderately.

Scientifically speaking, one to two drinks per day seems to provide health benefits. But what constitutes a "healthy drinking habit" depends on the individual.

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Dietician Jae Berman outlined a series of questions you should ask yourself when designing your healthy drinking routine. It's important to pick a number of drinks you'll permit yourself to drink per week (and stick to it), determine how you'll spread those drinks around (one per night? all on the weekend?), and always remember to drink water, Berman wrote in The Washington Post.

These are methods to prevent excessive drinking, which can increase your risk of numerous heart and liver-related diseases, several types of cancer, and can also compromise your immune system. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse (NIAA) defines "heavy drinking" as having more than five alcoholic drinks in one day on five or more days per month. But while 29 percent of American adults meet the definition of "excessive drinking," 90 percent don't develop alcoholism, The New York Times reports.

Science suggests that having one to two alcoholic drinks per day is a moderate amount that comes with health benefits, including a lower mortality rate, risk of diabetes and even cardiovascular disease. But the NIAA says that it's different for men and women. In order to avoid developing alcohol use disorder, the agency says men should drink no more than 14 drinks per week and women should limit their drinking to 7 drinks per week.

In the end, however, we can't pretend that alcohol isn't an addictive substance responsible for about 88,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. It's the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because everyone is different — their tolerance and response to alcohol, for example — it's impossible to come up with a universal standard for healthy drinking. That said, science has given us a compelling guideline.

RELATED: What Happens When You Quit Drinking

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