Public Health Matters: Tis the Season to be Merry!

December 3, 2015

Hello again! This is Dr. Jan Owen, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County. With the holiday season here, this is a good opportunity to talk about alcohol. There tend to be lots more opportunities to partake in a celebratory drink or two, or…..

We know that nearly one in five Huron County residents age 12 and over are heavy drinkers, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion, once a month or more.

As you all know, if alcohol is misused, it can affect your health. In public health one of the tasks we are required to do is help reduce people’s alcohol consumption as a way to prevent chronic disease.

You might wonder what the link is between alcohol consumption and chronic disease. After all, isn’t some alcohol good for your heart health? There is far more evidence of the ravages of alcohol on our health than there is for any small benefit that you might get from moderate alcohol use. As with many things in life, there are trade-offs but I cannot imagine any health professional encouraging someone to take up drinking as a preventive measure against heart disease. There are so many other things you can do to protect your heart without increasing your risk of many other problems such as cancer. Alcohol is known to cause a number of types of cancer. Unfortunately there is no safe amount of alcohol when it comes to cancer. A sobering thought.

There are a few things you can keep in mind when celebrating the holidays this year.

If you are going to drink, in order to minimize the risk, try following Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. The guidelines recommend that women have no more than 10 drinks a week, with no more than two drinks a day most days. Men should aim for no more than 15 drinks a week, with no more than three drinks a day most days.

But what constitutes “one” drink? It’s easier to tell with the regular size beer and coolers (12 ounces) how many you’ve had, but our count can become fuzzy when it comes to pouring wine or spirits. Did you know that a standard glass of wine is 5 ounces? That’s just over half a cup!

A standard shot of hard liquor (e.g., whiskey, vodka, gin, rum) is 1.5 ounces. It’s easy to over-pour; a shot glass is a good measurement.

It’s also important to know when zero is your limit, such as times when you’ll be driving, taking certain medications, or are pregnant or planning to be pregnant.

Safer drinking tips:

  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
  • Drink slowly. Have no more than two drinks in any three-hour period.
  • For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking.
  • Always consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits.

I wish you all a very merry and bright holiday season.

Stay tuned for more Public Health Matters in the new year!


For more information, please contact Rita Marshall, Communications Coordinator, Huron County Health Unit, 519.482.3416 (Toll-free 1.877.837.6143) ext. 2023 or

For more information contact:

Susan Cronin, County Clerk
519.524.8394 (ext 3257)