Alcohol has a big impact on us and it is vital for people to understand the consequences it brings. Most people believe alcohol is a stimulant whereas in fact it is a depressant. This explains why drinking too much can lead to poor judgement and an inclination for violent behaviour.
Low risk drinking guidelines are the same for men and women. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) advise to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
What 14 units looks like…
- 6 pints of 4% beer
- 6 glasses of 13% wine
- 14 glasses of 40% spirits
If you regularly drink 14 units per week, its best to spread your drinking over 3 or more days. If you wish to cut down on the amount you drink, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days a week.
How many units are there in the following drinks?
- 1 pint (568ml Bottle) of Cider (Magner's, Strongbow): 2.5-3 units
- 1 Pint Stella / Kronenbourg: 3 units
- 1/2 Bottle of White Wine (12%): 4 1/2 units
- 1 pub measure of Bacardi / Vodka / Whiskey: 1 unit
- 1 bottle Smirnoff Ice / Bacardi Breezer: 1.5 units
You can see how easy it would be to lose track of your alcohol consumption so why not track your drinking on the go. If you’re out and about use the Drinkaware smartphone app to track the alcohol you’re drinking. It will help you stay within the low risk unit guidelines and stay on top of your night out.
All alcohol consumption carries some risk. The risk of developing a range of health problems increases the more you drink on a regular basis.
How does alcohol affect our health?
Alcohol affects just about every part of our body including our brain, heart, stomach and liver. Most of us have a drink because it relaxes us and gives us an initial feeling of well-being. However, drinking alcohol in excess of safe limits can have serious consequences for our health, these include:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of cancer
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Increased risk of being involved in a fatal car accident
- Increased risk of committing suicide
- Increased risk of impotence in men
- Weight increase (one pint of Stella contains 220 calories one 175 ml glass of wine has 130 calories)
- These are only a few examples. There are also indicators that alcohol may be affecting our health - such as heartburn, stomach upsets, changes in mood and sleep disturbance which we often blame on other things.
How can we cut down our alcohol intake?
Most people who drink do so because they enjoy it. What most of us want is to continue getting pleasure out of drinking without it affecting our health. To do this however many of us may need to think about cutting down. Below are some tips for doing this.
- Pace yourself: Have a think before you go out how many units of alcohol you want to drink. Think how long you are going to be out for and how long you want to make a drink last. You can make a drink last longer by taking smaller sips, putting down your glass between sips or doing something else when you're in the pub e.g. playing pool or having a meal.
- Change your drink: You can probably cut down the number of units you are drinking quite a bit by simply changing your drink. Change to a lager / cider / wine with a lower volume of alcohol. If you drink spirits change from alcopops to a pub measure with plenty of mixer. Find out how many units of alcohol are in your favourite drink!
- Small is better: Make the guidelines go further by having bottles of beer or halves instead of pints and choosing a smaller glass for your wine. Buying spritzers or shandies will also help keep that unit count down.
- Try a spacer: Have a few non alcoholic drinks between alcoholic ones. Even try drinking water inbetween. This will mean you will be less dehydrated and have less of a hangover in the morning.
- Rounds: It may be that you have more to drink than you intend because you and your friends buy rounds. Think about buying your own drinks and explaining to your friends why, or if this isn't possible when it's your turn to buy a round miss out your own drink or order yourself a spacer. Also learn to refuse drinks.
- Start later: Maybe arrange to go out an hour or so later than usual or start drinking after a meal rather than before.
- Alcohol-free days: Remember, even if you are a moderate drinker to give yourself a couple of alcohol-free days a week. This will help you to cut down your weekly intake and also decrease the risk of you becoming dependant on alcohol.
By learning a bit more about what we drink and how it affects our health most of us can continue to enjoy drinking and by staying within safe limits continue to stay healthy. If, however, you think alcohol is beginning to become a problem for you and your family it is important you seek help.
Below are a few useful contacts:
Drinkline: 0800 917 8282
Alcoholics Anonymous: 0845 769 7555