You’re well aware that overindulging in alcohol is unwise, leading to all sorts of behavior that you’ll regret. But you may not realize how much a few extra drinks can place your brain at risk.

And I’m not talking just to folks who binge on huge quantities of booze. That’s because downing just three drinks a day is enough to drastically lower the age at which you may suffer a stroke!

This disturbing news comes from a French study involving 540 women and men who had experienced an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), a type of stroke that occurs when a blood vessel inside the brain leaks or ruptures. Researchers asked the patients or their relatives or caregivers about the participants’ drinking habits. Among the ICH patients, 25% regularly consumed 300 grams or more of pure alcohol per week (which by US standards equals about three drinks or more per day) and thus met the study criteria for being “heavy drinkers.”

Startling finding: Among the heavy drinkers, the average age at which stroke occurred was 60 years old. That’s a full 14 years younger than the average age of the stroke patients who consumed fewer than three drinks per day.

Self-defense: If you drink, do so only in moderation—meaning no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. And take note—a drink served in a bar or poured too generously at home may be much larger than the US standard serving size of 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. To protect your brain, don’t kid yourself about how much you’re actually imbibing.