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To live longer, limit your alcohol intake to five drinks a week

Written by Diane Archer

A new meta-study of nearly 600,000 people from 19 countries, published in The Lancet may give you pause before you take your next drink. The big takeaway: Less alcohol is better for your health. The study finds that recommended alcohol levels in most countries are too high. To live longer, you should limit your alcohol consumption to no more than five drinks a week.

Older adults in the US often drink more than the US recommended limit–no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men. Indeed, a recent JAMA Psychiatry paper found that one in eight American adults is an alcoholic. According to the CDC, about 88,000 people in the US die every year from alcohol-related causes.

The Lancet study suggests that the US recommended limit for alcohol consumption–beer, wine and spirits–is too high. The study finds that the risk of early death and heart disease increases once people drink as little as one drink a day. (If you are someone you love is drinking excessively and would like alcohol counseling, Medicare covers alcohol screenings and counseling.)

The researchers looked at 83 studies of people in wealthy countries to determine how much weekly alcohol consumption was associated with the lowest risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. They studied data from current drinkers who had no cardiovascular disease. They noted slightly more than 40,000 deaths and just over 39,000 incidents of cardiovascular disease in the 5.4 million person years of follow up.

The researchers found that people who drank more than five alcoholic drinks a week had a higher risk of stroke, coronary disease, heart failure and death than people who drank five or fewer alcoholic drinks. People who drank between 0 and 100 grams of alcohol a week–about five drinks–had an estimated six months higher life expectancy at age 40 than those who reported drinking double that amount. And people who drank triple that amount, more than 350 grams a week, had a life expectancy four to five years less than people who drank under 100 grams of alcohol a week.

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