For countless North Americans, each January starts with a promise to stick fast to resolutions that promote better health, stronger work practices, or improved spending and savings habits. By the end of the month, life may have thrown its typical curve balls sending the best of intentions off track. As Heart Health Month quickly approaches, we are reminded that there is still plenty of year left to start making healthier lifestyle choices including cutting back on alcohol consumption, moving more, and eating a Mediterranean-style diet.
Many adults enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two while celebrating a special event or dinner out with friends. But recently, Canada revised its alcohol consumption guidelines, the first update in 11 years by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, and many are surprised by the recommendations. According to a CTV News report, 40 percent of Canadians over age 15 exceed the standard 6 drinks per week consumption allowance. The CCSA now warns that no amount of alcohol is safe to consume and caps the limit to no more than two standard drinks or less per week to minimize the risk associated with drinking.
The Heart Foundation reports that recent research has found alcohol consumption should not be recommended to anyone to improve cardiovascular health and that everyone can benefit from drinking less, reducing their cardiovascular risk. The CCSA report also warns that consuming more than seven drinks per week increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, and women are more likely to experience greater health risks from exceeding low levels of alcohol consumption than men.
If you are like many, and the optimistic promises you made to yourself on January 1 have fallen by the wayside, it’s not too late to make a plan to achieve your ambitions. The key may be designing a SMART goal, according to the New York Times, that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Taking targeted steps, that can be tracked, and are likely to be reached helps create a framework for success. Keeping a journal or using an app to track progress toward an ambition helps not only measure success, but also reinforces progress made – a great motivator to stick with a plan that is working. Realistic and specific goals, like losing 10 pounds or eating red meat on only one day of the week, are more likely to be achievable. Now, you can add cutting back alcohol to no more than two drinks per week!