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Many people drink alcohol on social occasions, to unwind or to celebrate. It can be great to enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of wine, but most people know that drinking can have very significant health risks if indulged in too much. It's easy to slide into a routine of drinking alot without really being aware of it.
Drinking to excess can cause a number of health problems including heart problems, liver damage, increased risk of stroke and increased risk of diabetes. It can also cause mood changes and addiction, which can affect people around you.
The good news is that no-one is saying that everyone should stop drinking - it's just important to be aware of your real consumption rate, and cut back if you are at risk of causing yourself harm.
No-one likes being told what to do, but there are plenty of sources of information and support to help you understand the amount you drink, potential health risks, and how to cut down.
Consider the following when planning and monitoring your alcohol intake:-
- Make a note of how much you drink each day. It can be surprising - if you find you're regularly drinking over the recommended limit (3 to 4 units a day for men, or 2 to 3 units for women) it might be a good idea to cut down.
- Try a low alcohol or no alcohol drink - An increasing number can now rival the flavour, mouthfeel and aroma of your favourite tipple but have little or none of the alcohol. Why not give them a try?
- Don't rely on alcohol as a stress-buster. If you feel like cheering yourself up, exercising boosts a sense of well-being and sends feel-good hormones round the body - and it's better for you than having a drink. It can be as simple as a walk round the park. Or try yoga or breathing techniques, or perhaps meditation. Have a look at our exercise page, or got to our Events calendar, for ideas about what to do and where to go.
- Make sure you eat as well as enjoy a drink. Drinking on an empty stomach significantly upsets the metabolism, and the alcohol will hit your system more quickly and may make you feel queasy. So if you're going to have a drink, make sure you have eaten something first.
Eating healthy food including plenty of vegetables and fruit will also make sure your digestive system stays healthy. See our pages on nutrition and weight loss for ideas and help for healthy eating and nutrition.
- Take a break and don't drink every night - this gives your body time to recover and recuperate and cuts down the risk of damage to your liver. Try to leave 48 hours if you can.
- Never drink and drive. Don't drink if you may have to drive later - just a couple of drinks can be enough to put you over the legal limit, and alcohol stays in your system for a long time so even if you feel fine, you still may not be safe to drive.
Other information and advice
One You has support, information and a mobile 'app' which you can download to your phone that offers reminders, support and practical advice to change your drinking habits for good.
The NHS website is also an excellent source of information, personal stories and ideas about drinking and alcohol.
BOB (Build on Belief) is a peer-led website for anyone living in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, or Hammersmith and Fulham, who is affected by problems with alcohol or substance misuse. It provides a wealth of information and advice, with details of local support groups and services.
Drinkaware is a national independent charity whose website has a wealth of useful information and tips on reducing alcohol consumption and drinking sensibly.
drinks-meter is a website and mobile 'app' that offers anonymous, personalised feedback on your drinking. It's not just about what you drink, it's about how much you drink, who you are and what else is going on in your life.The website lets you compare your drinking to thousands of other people around the world as well as to national guidelines, and includes information about how drinking may be affecting your health. You can keep track of your drinking week by week, over time.
Alcohol Change UK (formed from the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK) is a charity which is committed to reducing harm from alcohol-related problems.