Do note that any alcohol can adversely affect some women, such as those with a history of substance abuse. And if you are at risk for breast cancer, consult your doctor about your alcohol intake. Drinking regularly will boost your odds of getting this disease by 10 to 15 percent, and the danger increases the more you imbibe, says Mukamal.
Now that you know the facts, the risks and the math, check out this guide for the thinking (and drinking) woman.
Run the numbers
If you’re on an exchange-based eating plan, the general rule is 2 drinks = 1 carb serving. Loosely translated, this means that if you’re having just a single drink, you can slip under the radar, but if you’re doubling up, plan to cut out some bread or dessert. Also, before you buy, check out the proof or alcohol content listed on the bottle. The higher the number, the more calories the bottle contains.
Put your drinks on a diet
Liquid calories have derailed many dieters. But if you’ve been in a liquor store or gourmet shop lately, you may have noticed that the shelves now offer reduced-calorie versions of vodka, premixed cocktails, mixers and agave nectar and other sweeteners. Or prepare waist-friendlier potions on your own; see 14 Slimmed-Down Sips.
Nix the nightcap
Drinking helps you fall asleep faster, but it disrupts your sleep cycle and promotes sleep apnea—obstructed breathing—especially in the second half of the night, says Steven Y. Park, MD, an otolaryngologist and sleep specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. That sets off a bad cycle: The breathing difficulties cause you to toss and turn, which elevates your stress hormones. These in turn may awaken you and make it hard for you to get back to sleep.
“Research involving adults shows that those who sleep less than eight hours nightly have not only a higher body weight but also higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, and lower levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger in the body, than those who enjoy a longer nightly slumber,” says Blake. In other words, using alcohol as a sleep aid only adds to a weight problem. Solution? Three or four hours before bedtime, stop drinking. “Not only will you lose weight more easily, but you’ll also sleep better and have more energy during the day,” Park explains.
Next: 14 Slimmed-Down Sips
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