Alcohol Awareness week, a campaign run by Alcohol Concern between 13-19 November, is your chance leading up to Christmas to have a think about your drinking habits and consider the effects on your health both now and in the future. The focus this year is on alcohol and families.
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of more than 60 medical conditions, many of which affect the heart, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression, not to mention the social damage alcohol can do to relationships and communities. Whilst you may feel you don’t have a problem with alcohol you’d be surprised at what a difference you could make by putting a cap on your intake. Before the festive celebrations start why not see how much healthier and happier you could feel by cutting down or even going cold turkey…?
Get the unit know-how
Men and women who want to stay within the low risk drinking guidelines and improve their heart health should cap their drinking at 14 units a week and try to spread this out evenly over three to five days. 14 units is around six pints of beer or medium glasses of wine, but can vary depending on ABV (alcohol by volume) strength and how large a helping you go for. Check the labels on individual brands, go for smaller glasses and use a unit calculator to keep an eye on your units.
Alcohol Units = volume (ml) x alcohol strength (%) / 1000
Examples; 1 pint (568mls) of 5% lager: 568 x 5 ÷ 1000 = 2.8 Units
1 can (440mls) of 4% lager: 440 x 4 ÷ 1000 = 1.8 Units (save one unit)
1 large glass (250mls) of 14% wine: 250 x 14 ÷ 1000 = 3.5 Units
1 small glass (125mls) of 12% wine: 125 x 12 ÷ 1000 = 1.5 Units (save two units)
Don’t liquidise your energy
Alcohol is deceptively high in calories. An average bottle of alcopop contains around the same calories as a chocolate bar, which will soon add inches to your waist if you knock them back regularly. It only takes an excess of 500 calories per day to lead to an annual weight gain of 52lbs (nearly 4 stone). This can clock up as easily as 3 daily pints in the pub. Replace a post work tipple for an activity like cycling, swimming, jogging or fitness class which burns energy instead of drinking it, shifting your weight in a healthier direction. You’ll also burn away the stresses of the day and feel more energised and refreshed.
Take a break
A couple of alcohol-free days or a week-day-drink-free zone are great for challenging those routine drinking habits like reaching for a glass of wine to unwind after work. You’re also less likely to build up a tolerance, which could spell trouble long term. Drop a slice of lemon or orange in some sparkling or plain water or diluted fruit juice as a pick up or reach for a cuppa when settling down for the evening. Set realistic, time measured and achievable goals so you don’t set yourself up for failure and reward yourself or others when you achieve this so that you have a sense of purpose. For instance you could offer to drive for an alcohol-free night with friends or a start a dry month sponsor page.
Have a heart healthy slumber
Try to avoid drinking alcohol on a week night as it interrupts rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and will leave you deprived of energy the next day. This can leave you short tempered with loved ones, inefficient at work and a danger on the roads as well as play havoc with your stress hormones, weight and heart health. Instead go for non-stimulant drinks such as herbal tea or skimmed milk and switch off anything that requires brain energy such as mobile phones and televisions. Good quality sleep of around 8 hours allows your blood pressure to drop, whole body to repair and mind to rest for a healthier, happier and longer life.
Don’t leave it ‘til January to sober up to the facts on your alcohol intake and your health. Use this Alcohol Awareness Week to tackle those drinking habits and make positive lifestyle changes so that you can look forward to happy times with loved ones for many Christmases to come.