General alcohol guidelines
- All levels of alcohol consumption are associated with some risk, so drinking less is best
- The risk of negative outcomes increases with increased consumption. If consuming more than two standard drinks per week, most individuals will have an increased risk of injury or health concerns
- A standard drink is considered: one beer or cooler that is ≤5% alcohol and is 12 fluid ounces; or, one glass of wine that is ≤12% alcohol and is 5 fluid ounces; or, one distilled spirit (examples: vodka, rum, whiskey) that is ≤40% alcohol and is 1.5 fluid ounces.
- If you are taking medications: Many medications do not mix well with alcohol and may make the medication either less effective, or dangerously toxic. Speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider to discuss if alcohol is safe for you.
- Living with health conditions: You should always speak with your doctor before consuming alcohol if you have any of the following conditions: heart failure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, history of stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, or high blood triglyceride levels.
Cardiovascular complications from heavy alcohol consumption
- Cardiovascular disease: Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats. Visit our section on heart failure for more information.
- Weight and waist circumference: Many alcoholic beverages, and their associated sweeteners and mixes, are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Since the nutritional value of alcohol is low (meaning it is not a good source of minerals, vitamins, or fibre), alcohol can be quickly broken down by the body and converted into energy. Leftover energy that is not needed at the time of consumption is converted back into blood fat, known as triglycerides, and stored in fat sites in the body. The type of fat that is stored from heavy alcohol consumption often contributes to an increased waist circumference and is associated with negative health outcomes.
- Uncontrolled blood sugar: For those living without diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing diabetes. For those living with diabetes, alcohol significantly changes the way in which blood sugar is controlled in the body, and can cause serious changes in blood sugar levels, depending on the type of medications you are taking. If you are living with diabetes, always speak to your healthcare provider or diabetes specialist to discuss the impact alcohol will have on your blood sugars.