You’ve come a long way, baby. Women of a certain age will remember this slogan. It was a cigarette marketed exclusively to women in the 1970s. We had arrived: Equal rights (more or less) when it came to voting, education, the workplace and pay scales. But there’s always a dark side to progress. With the perks came some less than desirable equalities for women: Increased rates of heart disease, for one. Women were now expected – even pressured – to balance homemaking, children and career. Domestic role expectations for men took a lot longer, but that’s a blog for another day…
So, women, in general, adopted some healthy coping skills, like running and going to the gym. Also some unhealthy habits, like alcohol. It became socially acceptable for women to drink with the boys. As we age, that trend continues. Alcohol consumption by women is growing at an alarming rate. Simultaneously, the glorification of drinking encourages women to indulge. We have the cute, thin professional woman on the label of Skinny Margarita. The shops we like are filled with cute little wooden sign declaring “Wine a little – You’ll feel better.”
And then, there are the studies. Facts that are printed on magazine covers and tee shirts: Daily moderate wine consumption leads to lower mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer, among them. It decreases your bad cholesterol.
What, exactly, is “daily moderate consumption?” According to the American Heart Association, it’s one to two 4 ounce glasses. If you pour like I do, that’s one glass.
There is a growing trend among women who drink in the evenings, at home. Older women, who usually belong to a group shown to drink less, are part of this trend. We might have a glass of wine or a cocktail to unwind, while making dinner. Another glass accompanies dinner, or maybe two. We deserve a glass of wine to relax after a day’s work, preparing a meal, cleaning up, right? That, my friends, is an entire bottle. So much for 4 to 8 ounces…
Somehow, we know the evils of cigarette smoking, saturated fat and sun tanning. But we’ve been lulled into a warm, fuzzy fantasy world when it comes to alcohol. If, like me, you’re over 50, the risks are substantial. We are more likely to take prescription drugs that can be affected by alcohol consumption. Our risk for certain cancers and other diseases is already elevated: Alcohol can contribute to those risks. We spend a lot of money trying to defy nature but alcohol makes our skin look older, not to mention taxing major organs like the liver. But then, even Weight Watchers seems to send the message that it’s okay:
Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. This has not garnered a lot of attention. Differences in body chemistry means women are more vulnerable to alcohol’s damaging effects. Women also become legally intoxicated more quickly.
I don’t mean to be a complete buzz killer. Unless you cannot control your drinking, have DUIs, have a family history of alcoholism or other alcohol-related problems, a glass of wine every day is probably fine – maybe even beneficial. And I’ll be the last person to put a damper on having a wild time with the girls on a weekend away! BUT, I think it’s important to know all the facts, or at least weigh them against the cute little sayings and attractive designer cocktails. There are, after all, many ways to lower your chances of heart disease – Like eating a healthy diet and getting some exercise!
There are times when living our best life includes having a few drinks. There are times when having a few drinks prevents us from living our best life. You decide!