Healthy Tip: Top tips for a ‘dry’ January and a healthy heart

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January is a time for many of us to brush away the effects of the festive season’s binge which also often involves ditching alcohol in favour of a ‘dry’ January. Drinking too much alcohol can increase risk of high blood pressure and some cancers, and is associated with increased weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other long-term conditions. Heavy drinking also makes the muscles of the heart weaker, so it can’t do its job efficiently and may lead to heart failure. So, with an estimated nine million people in England exceeding the recommended daily limits of 14 units per week, Heart Research UK wants to help you curb your drinking habits for healthier you in 2018.

Get unit savvy
Alcohol content varies between brands and types so check the labels so you know exactly how many units are in each serving of your chosen tipple. Go online to find easy-to-use unit calculators, mobile apps and alcohol unit dials to help you can track your intake over the week and compare drinks.  Try www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol, www.alcoholconcern.org.uk  or www.drinkaware.co.uk

Alternatives to Alcohol
Think about developing a taste for alcohol free alternatives; there are plenty of exciting non-alcoholic options to choose from or try making your own mocktails using 150ml of pure unsweetened fruit juice which also counts as one of your five a day.  Mix things up with some sparkling water or tonic water as an alternative to alcoholic bubbles and garnish with chunks of fresh fruit to add colour.

Liquid calories
Alcohol is deceptively high in calories which, gram for gram, contains twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate and only slightly less than a gram of fat.  A pint of beer containing around 180 calories, about the same as a packet of crisps you will soon notch up inches on your waist if not careful.  Remember that you’re more likely to eat higher calorie foods during & after drinking, those extra unwanted calories will keep piling up.

Take a break
Have a couple of alcohol-free days each week to help undo those routine drinking habits like ‘wine o’clock’ after work by settling down to watch TV with a cuppa instead.  If stress tends to trigger your drinking, try exercise or practice relaxation techniques for a healthier form of stress relief.

Sober up on the facts and use this year’s ‘dry’ January to tackle your drinking habits and make positive changes for the benefit of your heart and health.