You rarely turn down wine with dinner, not to mention that second (or third) cocktail at happy hour—but that doesn't make you a binge drinker, does it? It depends, but according to a new report by the CDC, an exploding number of Americans are in the drinking danger zone -- and they aren't always who you'd think.
More than 38 million adults binge drink an average of four times a month, according to a the report, and while 18 to 34 year olds are more likely to go overboard than any other age group, it's actually the over-65 set that does it most often. Tying one on now and then may seem harmless, but overindulging in alcohol is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths in this country per year, and is the third leading cause of preventable deaths.
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So how much alcohol means you're overdoing it? For women, binge drinking means having four or more drinks in a short period of time, compared to five or more for men.
Most people who binge drink don't fit the definition of an alcoholic, but there aren't just two camps of drinkers, say experts: Many of us are somewhere in between. To find out where you fall on the problem-drinking spectrum, read on for these surprising signs you may be drinking too much.
You Become a Daredevil
Anyone who's seen their normally shy co-worker dancing on the bar at the company party knows drinking can lower inhibitions. Getting drunk can come with repercussions far worse than feeling embarrassed—it can lead to risky decisions. "Drinking too much on just one occasion can change your life for the worse," says Gregory A. Smith, MD, an addiction specialist at the Comprehensive Pain Relief Group in Los Angeles. Alcohol is also a factor in approximately 60% of fatal burn injuries and drownings, 40% of fatal falls and car accidents, and half of all sexual assaults, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
You're a Weekend Warrior
If you don't drink daily but are drinking regularly, such as every Friday night, that's a red flag," says Dr. Smith. While research shows that having about seven alcoholic beverages per week lowers your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, abstaining all week only to guzzle five or six glasses in a single sitting negates any of alcohol's potential health benefits. Moreover, binge drinking can raise blood pressure and interfere with certain medications. "Plus, it's easier for women to suffer acute alcohol poisoning that could lead to death because it could take only six or seven drinks for someone who is 5'3" and 115 pounds, while it may take twice that amount or more for a larger man," says Dr. Smith.
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