Do you like to unwind with a glass of something alcoholic in the evening? If you're not careful it's easy for the occasional glass in the evening to quickly become two or three glasses most days.
When asked about how much alcohol you consume most people say "a little" or "a moderate amount" of alcohol, yet 41% of men and 34% of women are drinking over the recommended levels and over 1.1 million people in England are dependent on alcohol.
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is the same as six pints of average strength (4% alcohol) beer a week. Regularly drinking more than this can increase the risk to your health.
It’s best to drink within these guidelines and try to have at least two consecutive alcohol free days every week.
The risks of drinking too much
- New evidence around the health harms from regular drinking have emerged in recent years.
- There is now a better understanding of the link between drinking and some illnesses, including a range of cancers.
- It used to be thought that a little bit of alcohol was good for the heart, but recent research has shown it is still healthier not to drink at all.
Alcohol also contains a lot of calories
- A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps.
- Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 210 doughnuts.
Low-risk drinking advice
- Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- If you want to cut down, try to have a least two consecutive drink-free days each week
- If you're pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
The immediate benefits of cutting down
- Feeling better in the mornings
- Being less tired during the day
- Your skin may start to look better
- You'll start to feel fitter
- You may stop gaining or even lose weight
The long-term benefits include
- Mood: There's a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
- Sleep: Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.
- Behaviour: Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you're drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.
- Heart: Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can't be completely reversed, but stopping drinking can stop it getting worse.
- Immune system: Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.
Do you need more help? If drinking is causing you or someone that you know problems then local help is available. Norfolk Recovery Partnership offers a wide range of support, information and treatment options. Contact them on 0300 7900 227 or via www.norfolkrecoverypartnership.org.uk for free, confidential advice.