A "Standard Drink" and Low Risk Drinking Guidelines
Low Risk Drinking Guidelines (commonly referred to as the LRDGs), recommend that healthy people who decide to drink:
In Canada, a standard drink contains 13.6 grams of alcohol. That is the amount in:
* 341 ml or 12 oz of beer or cooler (5% alcohol)
* 142 ml or 5 oz glass of table wine (12% alcohol)
* 85 ml or 3 oz of fortified wine such as sherry or port (18% alcohol)
* 43 ml or 1.5 oz of spirits (40% alcohol)
Higher strength beer (e.g. 6, 7, or 8% beer), higher strength coolers and overproof liquor will contain more than 1 standard drink.
The Low Risk Drinking Guidelines also note that some people should not use alcohol at all. Others should limit their use to less than the maximum amounts. That includes
- people with serious health problems, such as liver disease or certain psychiatric illnesses (e.g. depression),
- people taking medications, such as sedatives, sleeping pills and pain killers, and
- people who have a personal or family history of serious drinking problems.
The Guidelines point out other groups who should probably avoid drinking:
- pregnant women, women trying to conceive, or who are breast-feeding,
- people who are operating vehicles such as automobiles, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles or bicycles,
- people who need to be alert -- for example, they are working with machinery or dangerous equipment, or while they are involved in challenging physical activities or when they are responsible for the safety of others, and
- people who are under any legal or other restriction on drinking -- personally or because of the environment they're in.
The amounts of drinks suggested in these low risk guidelines are intended to help people cut back to safer levels. They are not to encourage people to increase the amount of alcohol they are drinking.
Also the guidelines are set for people who are healthy. If you are older, are slender, have health problems or are on medications, the safe amount to drink is probably much less than these guidelines.
The guidelines also advise that:
- people should not start drinking alcohol because they think it might protect them from heart disease. The guidelines recommend using less risky alternatives such as exercise, better nutrition, and quitting smoking.
- people who choose to drink can achieve any health benefits with as little as one drink every other day.
- people seeking help for a drinking problem should follow the advice of their counsellor or health professional looking at what is best for them.
The Alcohol Policy Network has prepared a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about alcohol and heart health, including:
1. Should I be drinking red wine? 2. What do the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines say? 3. What is the link between alcohol and heart health? 4. Should I start drinking to improve my health? 5. If I drink, but not every day, should I consider becoming a more regular drinker? 6. What if I decide to have all my drinks in one night? 7. What should I do if I am considering a change in the amount I now drink? 8. What if my doctor tells me to drink? 9. It seems every week there's a news article on the benefits of alcohol. Where can I find credible research on alcohol and heart health? 10. Can you recommend resources to educate health professionals, the media and the public about alcohol and heart health?
For more information on the Guidelines and these FAQs, please see the LRDG Action Pack on APOLNET, www.apolnet.org/actpacks/ap_low.html.
Easy Ways to Help Stay
Within the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines at Home
If you drink alcohol:
(c) 2003 Charmaine Spencer, Seeking Solutions
Page last updated Sunday October 31, 2004
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