Know your limits

Coming up to the festive season many of us will get into the Christmas spirit but, with the dangers of alcohol hardly out of the news, can we enjoy a tipple without putting our health at risk?

Earlier this year, alcohol guidelines were revised, with both men and women recommended to keep within a limit of 14 units per week, along with having several consecutive alcohol-free days. (See our Know your limits article.)

At the time, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: “Drinking any alcohol regularly carries a health risk, but if men and women limit their intake to 14 units a week it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low.”

Additionally, a sobering survey by Drink Wise, Age Well highlighted that around one in five over-50s was at risk from their alcohol use and behaviour – with retirement, loss of sense of purpose and bereavement all cited as reasons for increased consumption.

The message is clear, though. If you keep within the limit and space out your alcoholic drinks over the week, you can still enjoy a drink. But if you’re unsure what 14 units actually amounts to, visit Drinkaware for some clear advice and tips for lowering your alcohol consumption, and why this is important. Also included is an excellent self-assessment tool that can help you examine your relationship with drink and the risk to your health, as well as an app for tracking your drinking.

Drinkaware has plenty of useful tips such as not joining ‘rounds’, which can encourage more drinking, alternating alcohol with soft drinks, drinking halves or smaller servings (singles instead of doubles) and eating before you go out – all of which can help to limit the damage.

Days without alcohol are also vital – and the message is that we shouldn’t drink all our units in one go either.

According to Drinkaware, these are some of the benefits you can enjoy if you have been drinking too much and cut back:

Dr John Giles, medical director of Benenden, said: “Overall, average alcohol consumption per head has fallen, but some sections of the population continue to place themselves at greater risk.

“I believe the majority of the population understands the need for moderation, yet a small minority needs more guidance.

“At the end of the day we are all grown-ups, and we have to allow individuals to make their own decisions, but we must ensure they have sufficient information to help them do that.”

Of course, if you can’t stop drinking and find it very difficult to cut down, you may need to see your GP or call our 24/7 helpline for advice and support.

For more information visit: www.drinkaware.co.uk and http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx

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