Alcohol and your health – Do you need to cut down?
This week, (November 17 – 23) marks Alcohol Awareness week – an annual event organised by Alcohol Concern to raise awareness of alcohol issues and the impact it can have on our health.
While many of us may consider a daily alcoholic beverage to be a good balance, as a nation we are exceeding our recommended alcohol intake and putting our health at serious risk.
Far too often one innocent glass of wine becomes two, and then suddenly it’s 10pm and the bottle is empty.
The recommended daily units of alcohol for women currently stands at one to two a day, while men should have no more than three to four units.
However, according to Alcohol Concern, around 34% of men and 28% of women in the UK drink more than the recommended intake on at least one day during the week.
The impact of excessive alcohol consumption can vary, although research shows that alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including cancer, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression.
It is also linked to other problems such as infertility, sleep problems and obesity.
Sara Kirkham, a nutritionist based in Cornwall, explains:
“As well as an increased risk of mental health issues, liver disease and some cancers, alcohol is bad news on the obesity front – not only because of its high calorie count, but because its only fate is to be oxidised into fatty acids and either used for fuel or stored as adipose tissue.”
Statistics show that in England during 2011/12, there were 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions – a stark 135% increased from 2002/03.
Even more worrying is that in 2011 alone, there were 8748 deaths related to alcohol in the UK.
Clearly as a nation our drinking habits are escalating to dangerous levels. If you are worried that you may be drinking more than your recommended daily units, now is a time more than ever to make long-lasting positive changes.
As nutritionist Sara explains: “like any dietary habit, it can be tough to go ‘cold turkey'”, so taking small steps to curb your alcohol consumption is crucial.
Below we share some tips recommended by Sara on how you can cut down on alcohol for good.
- Count the number of drinks or units you currently consume, and set a goal to reduce it week by week.
- Plan a set number of alcohol-free days each week to keep a balance.
- Ensure you are well hydrated through the day so when you have a tipple, you can take your time and enjoy it rather than drink it quickly in an attempt to quench thirst.
- Swap pints for bottles, or large glasses for smaller ones.
- Add soda or sparkling water to white wine to make a spritzer, which takes much longer to drink and hydrates you at the same time.
- Add lots of ice to white wine or any alcoholic beverage that you can. The ice will make you sip at your drink rather than gulp, and as it gradually melts it will dilute your drink – thus you drink less alcohol overall.