As You Age, Alcohol May Be Harder to Handle

FRIDAY, Jan. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Seniors may be more vulnerable to alcoholism, a psychologist warns.

“As we age, it takes longer for the body to break down alcohol. It stays in the system longer. Tolerance also decreases. Excessive drinking can compromise your immune system and can lead to some forms of cancer,” said Brad Lander, an addiction medicine specialist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

As you age, your drinking habits may change. Social drinking when you’re young may turn to drinking to relieve boredom, loneliness and grief, which are common with aging. The risk of becoming an alcoholic is greater for women than men, Lander noted.

Also, according to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even after you stop drinking, alcohol continues to enter the bloodstream, resulting in impaired judgment and coordination for hours.

“It also can decrease the effectiveness of some medications and highly accelerate others, including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, sleeping pills and others,” Lander added in a center news release.

Alcohol abuse can also cause problems with balance and reaction times, increasing the chances of accidents and falls.

Moreover, alcohol can worsen health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis and liver disease.

Excessive drinking can also increase the odds of dementia, depression, suicide and impaired sexual functioning, Lander said.

However, the differences between safe, moderate and heavy drinking is different for everyone.

“But the general rule of thumb is to take a close look and honestly assess if drinking is causing any life problems. If it’s causing difficulties with your health, relationships, daily functioning or emotions, then it’s too much,” Lander said.

The average senior should drink no more than seven drinks in a week and no more than three drinks in one day.

Research has shown that only about 2 percent of people who drink within these limits develop an alcohol problem, Lander explained.

He recommends that seniors drink in moderation at social gatherings and eat to slow the absorption of alcohol and lower the peak level of alcohol in the body.

“A lot of drinking is ‘thoughtless,’ so simply ask yourself, ‘Do I really want a [or another] drink?’ Remember, you don’t have to drink,” Lander said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more on alcohol abuse.

Alcohol May Be Sabotaging Your Diet

MONDAY, Dec. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Alcohol.

It’s a fixture at New Year’s parties, but it’s also is a calorie guzzler — one drink can eat up 10 percent or more of a dieter’s daily allotment, depending on how fanciful the beverage is.

And there are other ways booze can undermine your wellness efforts. The calories in every gram of alcohol have no nutritional value, so you’re also missing out on the vitamins and minerals you get from food calories.

What’s more, heavy drinking can affect your metabolism and lead your body to store fat, hampering muscle development, the American Council on Exercise reports.

Despite its initial feel-good effect, alcohol is actually a depressant, negatively affecting brain function, balance and hand-eye coordination. It can leave you feeling sluggish while ramping up your appetite, causing you to eat hundreds of unwanted calories, often unhealthful “bar food.”

But the news isn’t all bad. As with most consumption, it comes down to moderation — that’s a max of one drink a day for women and two for men.

To avoid overdoing it on booze:

  • Know the standard drink sizes so you can account for the correct number of calories.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach — food helps to slow down alcohol’s effects.
  • Have a sip of water between sips of alcohol to make the drink last longer.
  • Set daily and weekly goals for consumption, and record drinks just as you do meals in a food journal.

More information

Are you in the safe “sweet spot” when it comes to booze? For a reality check, use the alcohol calculator at the U.S. National Institutes of Health website to see how many calories you’re drinking every week.

Ring in the New Year Resolved to Improve Your Health

FRIDAY, Dec. 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — If you’re thinking about making some health-related resolutions for 2019, the American Medical Association (AMA) has some suggestions.

“This is the perfect time of year for each of us to consider our personal goals, and how we can make positive health choices in the coming year,” said AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny.

“We encourage everyone to prioritize their long-term health by making small lifestyle changes now that can have a lasting effect in improving their health,” she added in an AMA news release.

The association offers some tips that can make a big difference in your health:

  • Learn your risk for type 2 diabetes: Take a self-screening test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org. If you’re at risk, the website lists steps that can help you prevent or delay development of the blood sugar disease.
  • Get regular exercise: Adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Know your blood pressure: Get high blood pressure under control to help prevent heart attack or stroke.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Cut down on processed foods, especially those with added salt and sugar, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages. Drink more water.
  • Help prevent antibiotic resistance: If you’re prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as directed. Remember: Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, including those that cause colds and flu.
  • Limit alcohol and tobacco: If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation — no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you use tobacco, talk to your doctor about quitting.
  • Be careful with painkillers: If you’re prescribed opioid pain medications, follow your doctor’s instructions, store them safely, and properly dispose of unused pills to prevent misuse or theft.
  • Immunize: Be sure everyone in your family is up to date on vaccinations, including the annual flu shot for everyone 6 months or older.
  • Control stress: Healthy eating and regular exercise can help maintain good mental health, but seek help from a friend or professional if you need it.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on healthy living.

Alcohol Helps Kill 2.8 Million People Globally Each Year

THURSDAY, Aug. 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide, and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, researchers say.

The new analysis of hundreds of studies conducted between 1990 and 2016 found that one in three people worldwide (2.4 billion people) drink alcohol, and that 6.8 percent of men and 2.2 percent of women die of alcohol-related health problems each year.

How the United States fits into those figures is unclear. It was not among the top or bottom 10 for the most or the heaviest drinkers in 2016. Denmark led the list for most drinkers (97 percent of men and 95 percent of women), while Romania (men) and Ukraine (women) had the heaviest drinkers.

Worldwide, alcohol use was the seventh-leading risk factor for early death and disability in 2016. It was the top cause for early death and disability among 15- to 49-year-olds, accounting for one in 10 deaths. In this age group, the main causes of alcohol-related deaths were tuberculosis (1.4 percent), road injuries (1.2 percent) and self-harm (1.1 percent), the findings showed.

Among people 50 and older, cancer was a leading cause of alcohol-related death, accounting for 27 percent of deaths in women and nearly 19 percent of deaths in men.

Any protection alcohol may provide against heart disease is outweighed by the health problems it causes, particularly cancer, according to the authors of the study, published Aug. 23 in The Lancet.

The researchers calculated that people who have one standard drink (10 grams of pure alcohol) a day have a 0.5 percent higher risk of one of 23 alcohol-related health problems than teetotalers.

The risk was 7 percent higher in people who had two drinks a day, and 37 percent higher among people who had five drinks every day, according to the report.

“We found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol. In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischemic heart disease in women in our study,” study lead author Max Griswold said in a journal news release.

“Although the health risks associated with alcohol starts off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more,” Griswold added. He is a researcher at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in Seattle.

“Policies focusing on reducing alcohol consumption to the lowest levels will be important to improve health. The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to shed light on how much alcohol contributes to global death and disability,” Griswold said.

According to Robyn Burton of King’s College London, in England, “The conclusions of the study are clear and unambiguous: alcohol is a colossal global health issue and small reductions in health-related harms at low levels of alcohol intake are outweighed by the increased risk of other health-related harms, including cancer.”

The new study offers strong support for a guideline published by the chief medical officer of the United Kingdom, “who found that there is ‘no safe level of alcohol consumption,’ ” Burton wrote in an editorial that accompanied the study.

“The solutions are straightforward: increasing taxation creates income for hard-pressed health ministries, and reducing the exposure of children to alcohol marketing has no downsides,” Burton concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol and public health.

'Moderate' Drinking May Help the Heart, But Only If You Stick With It: Study

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 22, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Could a habit of consistent “moderate” drinking — a little more than two drinks a day for men, and slightly less for women — actually help your heart?

That’s the suggestion from a new study of more than 35,000 British and French adults whose health and drinking habits were tracked for a decade. The investigators found that consistent, moderate tippling was tied to better heart health than abstaining from alcohol altogether.

Still, researchers from University College London (UCL) cautioned that many other lifestyle factors might explain the findings, and they found only an association — not a definite cause-and-effect relationship.

One U.S. expert who wasn’t involved in the study echoed that sentiment.

“There is a suggestion that small, consistent intake of alcohol may have a protective effect on the development of coronary heart disease. But whether the beneficial effects are attributed to the alcohol or overall healthy lifestyle patterns — such as communal eating, physical activity or social support — remains unclear,” said Dr. Eugenia Gianos. She directs women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

As reported Aug. 22 in BMC Medicine, a team led by UCL’s Dr. Dara O’Neill analyzed data from six studies involving more than 35,000 adults in the United Kingdom and France, over a 10-year period.

During that time, nearly 5 percent developed heart disease, and 0.9 percent of those people died from heart problems, the findings showed.

When it came to drinking habits, consistency appeared to be the key to heart risk, the researchers said.

Those who consistently drank moderate amounts of alcohol had a lower risk of heart disease than those whose drinking levels ebbed and flowed over time. Consistent moderate drinkers also had a lower risk compared to people who’d drank in the past but had since given it up, and those who never drank, O’Neill’s group found.

Age and gender appeared to be factors, too.

“When we split the sample by age, we found that the elevated risk of [heart disease] among ‘inconsistently’ moderate drinkers was observed in participants aged over 55, but not those aged below,” O’Neill said in a journal news release.

“It may be that the older group experienced lifestyle changes, such as retirement, which are known to co-occur with increases in alcohol intake and that these could have played a role in the differing risk,” O’Neill added.

Also, among the long-time non-drinkers, abstention appeared to raise heart risks for women, but not for men, the study found.

And in one unexpected finding, consistent heavy drinkers were found to have the lowest incidence of a cardiovascular event — crises such as a heart attack or stroke.

However, the researchers cautioned that this could be a statistical fluke.

Because surveys often fail to capture enough heavy drinkers to achieve statistical significance, “interpretation of the absence of [an unhealthy] effect among heavy drinkers in the current study should be done very cautiously, particularly in light of the known wider health impact of heavy alcohol intake levels,” O’Neill said.

For her part, Gianos stressed that the jury is still out on the effect of even moderate drinking on a person’s overall health.

For example, she said, “there are also studies showing increased breast cancer risk with alcohol intake and well-established negative effects of heavy alcohol intake, so we still cannot recommend that people who do not drink should begin to do so for the potential protective effects.”

Dr. Cathy Grines directs cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. She noted that “it has long been shown that moderate alcohol consumption (such as two glasses of wine for men, one for women) have beneficial effects on the heart. For example, individuals who live in France have a rich, butter-laden diet and higher rates of smoking, yet have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, which is proportional to [their] moderate alcohol drinking.”

Theories abound as to the connection, Grines said, but the “reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease is thought to be due, in part, to beneficial effects of alcohol on cholesterol and thinning the blood.”

What’s new about O’Neill’s study is the emphasis on drinking consistency, she added.

“The protective effects of alcohol went away if one did not drink the same amounts regularly,” Grines noted. “Many of us believe that we are ‘detoxing’ and helping ourselves by having periods of abstinence, but that [may be] a false assumption.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers heart disease prevention tips.

'Moderate' Drinking May Be a Brain Buffer

THURSDAY, Aug. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Middle-aged people who drink moderately — no more than a glass of wine a day — may have a relatively lower risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers report.

The study, which followed 9,000 British adults for over two decades, found that both heavier drinkers and abstainers had a higher dementia risk than moderate drinkers.

Moderate drinking was defined according to the recommended drinking limits in the United Kingdom: no more than 14 “units” of alcohol per week. That translates to one medium-sized glass of wine, or roughly a pint of beer, each day.

People who were nondrinkers in middle age were 47 percent more likely to eventually be diagnosed with dementia, versus moderate drinkers, the findings showed.

Meanwhile, when people drank beyond moderate levels, their risk of dementia rose in tandem with their alcohol intake.

Among people who had more than a drink per day, dementia risk rose by 17 percent with every additional 7 units of alcohol they downed per week. That’s equivalent to three to four glasses of wine.

None of that, however, proves there is something directly protective about moderate drinking, experts stressed.

“No one is saying that if you don’t drink, you should start,” said Dr. Sevil Yasar, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

She wrote an editorial published with the study Aug. 1 in the BMJ.

“Why does abstaining appear detrimental when it comes to dementia risk?” Yasar said. “We don’t know.”

The researchers tried to account for other health and lifestyle factors. But it’s still possible that there’s something else about the average nondrinker that explains the higher dementia risk, Yasar said.

What does seem clear, she added, is that people should limit their drinking — possibly to levels even lower than those currently recommended in the United States.

U.S. guidelines differ from the U.K.’s — suggesting that men can safely have up to two drinks per day. Women are advised to limit themselves to one per day.

Severine Sabia, the lead researcher on the study, said that advice to men may need to be revisited.

“It is possible that in countries like the U.S., there needs to be a downward revision of the threshold that carries harm,” said Sabia, a researcher with the French national research institute Inserm.

As for nondrinkers, she echoed what Yasar said: “Our finding on abstainers should not motivate people to start drinking alcohol.”

That is partly because of the many health risks tied to drinking — from liver disease to several cancers, including breast, liver and throat cancers, she explained.

The findings are based on 9,087 British adults who were 50, on average, at the study’s start in the 1980s. Over the next couple of decades, 397 were diagnosed with dementia.

In general, middle-aged adults who were either teetotalers or relatively heavier drinkers were more likely to develop dementia, the researchers said.

The risk appeared most clear among the heaviest drinkers: People who ended up in the hospital for alcohol-related diseases were over three times more likely to develop dementia than other study participants were.

According to Sabia, that suggests heavy drinking can contribute to dementia by directly harming the brain.

On the other hand, abstainers in this study tended to have more risk factors for heart disease: They were heavier, exercised less and had a higher rate of type 2 diabetes, for instance. And those differences explained part of the link to dementia — though not all of it.

Research suggests that many of the same factors that raise the risk of heart disease may also boost the risk of dementia — possibly due to poorer blood flow to the brain.

Yasar pointed out that “what’s good for your heart seems to also be good for your brain.”

Many studies have found that moderate drinkers tend to have better heart health than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. However, it’s not clear that the alcohol, per se, is the reason.

So, Yasar said, it cannot be assumed that light drinking helps thwart dementia by boosting a person’s heart health.

“Luckily,” she added, “there are many ways to improve your cardiovascular health — like regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.”

More information

The Alzheimer’s Association has advice on lifestyle and brain health.

How Much Drinking Is Healthy — or Not?

TUESDAY, June 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — People who have a few drinks a week tend to live a bit longer than teetotalers do — but even moderate drinking may raise the risk of certain cancers, a large, new study finds.

The research is the latest to look at the question: What level of drinking might be “healthy”?

It’s a complicated issue to study, and that’s led to some confusing public health messages, the researchers noted.

The new report does not put those questions to rest. But experts said it does suggest that if people already drink, they would be wise to minimize it.

It also suggests people shouldn’t seek health benefits by having that second glass of wine each night, said lead researcher Andrew Kunzmann, of Queens University Belfast, in Northern Ireland.

The study, of nearly 100,000 older U.S. adults, found that lifelong light drinkers were somewhat less likely to die over the next nine years. That was in comparison to both non-drinkers and heavier drinkers.

“Light” drinking was defined as one to three drinks per week for both men and women — a drink being a 12-ounce beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine, for example.

Kunzmann stressed that the results do not prove that light drinking, itself, brings any health benefits.

“We urge caution in interpreting these results,” he said.

There could be many other things about light drinkers — higher incomes, better diets or higher exercise levels, for example — that explain their greater longevity. Kunzmann said his team tried to account for as many of those factors as possible, but couldn’t weigh everything.

A researcher not involved in the study was more blunt.

“It’s probably not the light drinking,” said Timothy Stockwell, who directs the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria. “It’s probably something else about those people.”

But what about the evidence tying light to moderate drinking to a lower risk of heart disease?

Over the years, many studies have suggested that benefit — but they’ve had flaws, Stockwell said. One major issue, he explained, is that former drinkers are often lumped in with “non-drinkers” — and some of those former drinkers may have quit for health reasons or concerns about their drinking.

In his own research, Stockwell has found that when you account for those study flaws, the “benefits” of moderate drinking disappear.

Kunzmann agreed that the former-drinker issue is a problem in many studies. But older adults in this study were asked about their lifetime drinking habits — and death risk was lowest among people who’d been, on average, light drinkers their whole adult life.

Over nine years, nearly 10 percent of the study participants died, while almost 13 percent developed cancer, the findings showed.

Compared with light drinkers, lifelong non-drinkers were about one-quarter more likely to die. Meanwhile, the risk was 19 percent and 38 percent higher, respectively, among men and women who drank heavily. (“Heavy” was defined as two to three drinks per day, for both sexes).

On the other hand, the risk of developing cancer tended to inch up the more often people drank — especially for alcohol-related types, such as cancers of the throat, mouth, esophagus and liver.

So, when the researchers looked at the combined risk of developing cancer or dying, light drinkers still came out on top — but not by much: Non-drinkers were 7 percent more likely to develop cancer or die than light drinkers were.

That risk was 10 percent higher among heavy drinkers, and 21 percent higher among “very” heavy drinkers (three drinks or more per day).

The findings were published online June 19 in the journal PLOS Medicine.

For now, Stockwell said, there is no scientific consensus on what a “low-risk” level of drinking might be.

But he agreed with Kunzmann on the bottom-line message: If you already drink, minimize it — and don’t start drinking more because you think alcohol is good for you.

“It’s unlikely you’ll become less healthy by cutting down on your drinking,” Stockwell said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on alcohol use and health.

Booze Boosts Your Heart Rate

MONDAY, March 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — You might think that glass of wine or beer helps you relax at the end of a long day, but researchers report that it actually makes your heart race.

And the more you drink, the faster your heart beats.

To come to that conclusion, German doctors monitored the alcohol consumption and heart rates of more than 3,000 people (average age: 35) at the 2015 Oktoberfest in Munich.

Participants were given electrocardiograms and breath alcohol tests. Higher breath alcohol concentrations were associated with more than 100 heartbeats per minute, according to the study.

The researchers said they now want to find out if the increase in heart rate from drinking increases the long-term risk of heart rhythm disorders called arrhythmias.

The study was presented Sunday at a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) meeting, in Barcelona, Spain.

“We cannot yet conclude that a higher heart rate induced by alcohol is harmful,” said study co-author Dr. Moritz Sinner, a cardiologist at University Hospital in Munich.

“But people with heart conditions already have a higher heart rate, which in many cases triggers arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation,” he said in an ESC news release. “So it is plausible that the higher heart rate following alcohol consumption could lead to arrhythmias.”

“Most people in our study were young and healthy. If we conducted the same study in older people or heart patients, we might have found an association between drinking alcohol and arrhythmias,” Sinner noted.

Alcohol may create an imbalance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems, according to the researchers, and they are now investigating how this might occur.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on alcohol and heart health.

Fetal Alcohol Cases More Common Than Thought: Study

TUESDAY, Feb. 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) — More U.S. children may be living with brain damage from prenatal drinking than experts have thought, a new study suggests.

The study of four U.S. communities found that at least 1 percent to 5 percent of first-graders had a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.

The prevalence ranged depending on the community. And when the researchers used a less-strict estimate, the rate went as high as 10 percent in one location.

The figures challenge commonly accepted estimates on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which have been thought to affect about 1 percent of U.S. children.

“The bottom line is, these are not uncommon disorders,” said study leader Christina Chambers, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is an umbrella term that includes fetal alcohol syndrome — which can be fatal, or cause serious problems with learning and behavior, stunted growth and facial abnormalities. It also includes less-severe learning or behavioral issues that can be traced to a woman’s prenatal drinking.

Kids in that latter group might have trouble with schoolwork or poor impulse control, for example. And it can be challenging to pinpoint FASD as the cause — versus a diagnosis like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Chambers said.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “There’s no blood test for it. A lot of clinical judgment goes into making the diagnosis.”

Her team’s findings are based on evaluations done by professionals with expertise in diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. And other researchers said that makes their estimates particularly reliable.

William Fifer, a professor of medical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said, “I think this gives us a much more valid estimate of the prevalence of these disorders.”

Fifer, who was not involved in the study, said the findings underscore a key message: The “safest route” is for women to stop drinking when planning a pregnancy.

“Most women will stop once they learn they are pregnant,” Fifer said. But, he added, those early weeks — when a woman may not know she’s pregnant — are a critical period.

The study included more than 6,600 first-graders from four U.S. areas: a county in the Southeast, and cities in the Pacific Southwest, Midwest and Rocky Mountains.

The children underwent detailed evaluations, and their mothers were interviewed about their drinking habits during pregnancy — and other factors like smoking, drug use and prenatal care.

The researchers estimated that, “conservatively,” fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affected between 1.1 percent and 5 percent of the children. The disorders were least common in the Midwestern city, and most common in the Rocky Mountain city.

By a less conservative estimate, however, the range was roughly 3 percent to 10 percent.

Chambers explained the difference: Not all of the students could be evaluated. The “conservative” estimate assumed that none of those kids had a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which, she noted, is unlikely.

The other estimate, she said, assumed that FASDs were just as common among unscreened children as they were in the screened group. Again, Chambers noted, that may be a stretch.

So the “true” figures might lie somewhere in between, she said.

The findings were published Feb. 6 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to Fifer, it’s not surprising that the rate of fetal alcohol damage ranged among communities. It’s thought that other factors — like genetics, prenatal nutrition and smoking — influence the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, he said. And those things would vary from one place to the next.

Of the 222 children found to have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, only two had been diagnosed before the study, the researchers reported.

In the real world, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or another developmental disorder, said Dr. Svetlana Popova, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, however, generally cause more severe symptoms than ADHD does, explained Popova, co-author of an editorial published with the study.

One issue, she said, is that general practitioners in most countries never receive the training they need to diagnose an FASD, because it’s not covered in medical school.

She stressed there is no known “safe amount” of alcohol for pregnant women to drink — and the surest means of prevention of a fetal alcohol disorder is to abstain.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an overview of fetal alcohol syndrome disorders.

Smarter, Slimmer Alcoholic Drinks

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Wine and spirits are tallied in the “empty calories” column because they lack any nutritional benefits. Add cream or soda to make a mixed drink and you can more than double the caloric damage.

So how can you enjoy a cocktail without wrecking your diet? Here are some options.

Choose your alcoholic drinks wisely. A light beer has about a third less calories than regular beer. A shot of vodka, whiskey or gin — that’s 1.5 fluid ounces — has about 100 calories or less; so does a 4-ounce glass of wine or champagne.

When you want a mixed drink, make your own lighter version of classics by limiting the amount of alcohol you put in. For instance, for a Bloody Mary, mix half the amount of vodka with extra tomato juice and spices.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to skip some drinks, especially those made with cream liqueurs, like those flavored with chocolate and coconut, as well as drinks with cream or creamy ingredients like Egg Nog, Pina Coladas and White Russians. Some of these indulgences have more than 400 calories — the amount in an entire meal of wholesome ingredients.

Prepackaged drink mixers might be convenient, but they’re also very high in sugar. Make your own flavored frozen daiquiris and margaritas by blending a shot of liquor with unsweetened frozen fruit chunks instead.

Calories aside, remember that healthy limits on drinks are two a day max for men and one for women.

More information

The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 can help you better understand how alcohol can affect your diet so you can make the best choices.