Everyday tippler? Special occasion sipper? Boozy binger? Let’s be honest! Most of us enjoy a drink, but it makes sense to be alcohol aware.
Drink is cheap and good for you!
Whether it’s our favourite tipple in a bar or a glass of wine at home, drinking is a normal and enjoyable way to socialize and relax. Easily obtained from your street corner off-licence or as part of a supermarket ‘meal deal’, it’s now cheaper than ever. In fact, alcohol is now 65% more affordable than in 1980.
There’s more good news. Studies have promoted the possible benefits of alcohol in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and in protecting against rheumatoid arthritis. However this applies to limited amounts of drink and the health improvements may well be outweighed by the dangers of drinking too much.
What difference does my age make?
Changes to our bodies as we get older, mean that we break down alcohol more slowly and are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol particularly if combined with medication. It’s also worth remembering that even a few small drinks can impair co-ordination and concentration. Also, if you have been drinking over the limits regularly there is a possibility of undetected but significant liver damage.
And watch out for your older friends and relatives. Problem drinking amongst the elderly is in fact becoming more widespread. Research for charity Foundation 66 found one in eight admitted to drinking more following retirement. Of these, one in five used alcohol to manage depression, and one in eight drank to help deal with bereavement.
It’s not like I’m a binge drinker!
The baby boom generation grew up in an era of liberal attitudes to many activities, and drinking was part of that permissive age. We may frown upon young ‘lager louts’, yet be more tolerant towards older people whose drinking may be seen as part of their personality. For example, Keith Floyd’s regularly wine consumption on television was accepted as part of his quirky charm. (Although I doubt that we would have been so tolerant had Delia been regularly knocking back the booze.)
Many of us would never consider ourselves to be binge drinkers, yet if we take the government’s description, we need to think again. Remember that the weekly recommendations are no more than 14 units for a woman (21 units for a man). And a woman who drinks 6 units (8 units for men) in one day can be considered to be a binge drinker. With a 175ml glass of wine (13%) having 2.3 units, you can see how easy it is to reach the limit.
Watching your weight? Watch what you drink!
Whether you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose a few pounds then limiting your alcohol intake makes sense. With 7 calories per gram, the number of calories in alcohol is second only after fat (9 calories per gram), so just one regular size alcopop, can have anything from 160 to 230 calories. Or a half bottle of wine can have more than 250 calories. It all adds up! (And don’t forget that a couple of drinks are more likely to lower your resistance to those fattening snacks!)
When, why and where?
Asking yourself when, how and where you are drinking is a good way to assess your alcohol consumption. If drinking has become a habit, or it’s a means of self-medicating to deal with stress or you are regularly drinking alone, then be aware that this can lead to a dependency on alcohol that can lead to physical and psychological problems.
Perhaps I should cut down?
There are some simple ways to reduce alcohol intake. Try diluting your drinks, alternating with water or a soft beverage. Consider sampling low alcohol beers or de-alcoholised wines for a change. To get a good idea of how much and when you drink consider keeping a diary for a couple of weeks. Or sign up with Drinkaware to try their easy to use drinks tracker. Not only does it help keep an eye on how many units you’re consuming, it converts your results into calories, exercise, money, or even burgers!
Time to give it a break!
Thankfully, the occasional over-indulgence is unlikely to cause long term damage and most of us can enjoy a glass of our favourite tipple by keeping within sensible limits. But if you do find that you’ve overdone it on a night out then give yourself 48 hours before you drink again to allow yourself to recover.
However, if you’re drinking more than 14 units a week regularly, then you could consider giving your body a complete break for a while. You may surprise yourself at how much more energised, level headed and healthier you feel!
Need some know more?
Excellent advice on all aspects of alcohol can be found at:
Drinkaware – http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/
nhs.uk – www.nhs.uk/alcohol/
Carolyn Hughes is a freelance writer specializing in alcoholism and recovery from addiction. Celebrating 14 years of sobriety, she shares her experiences of life and psychological recovery her inspirational blog The Hurt Healer.
Carolyn can be contacted by:
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