Dr Nick Tupper blog: It’s a good time to reduce your drinking

WTF-alcohol-stockSome Doncaster people have decided to make this an alcohol-free month by supporting the annual Dry January campaign and fundraising for the Alcohol Concern charity at the same time.

Dry January is seen as an opportunity to forget hangovers, shrink the waistline, and take the pressure off the purse or wallet by giving up alcohol for 31 days.

Last year, according to the organisers, two million people took part, and 85 per cent claimed to have benefited from the achievement. Those who took part said they lost weight, slept better and had more money and energy.

New evidence also indicates that a month off the booze lowers cholesterol, reduces liver fat and helps to reduce blood pressure.

Interestingly, the Government has chosen this month to introduce new alcohol guidelines which suggest that men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week in order to reduce any risks to their health.

The previous guidelines were 21 units for men and 14 units for women per week.

Units can be difficult to understand, but 14 is roughly the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

The country’s Chief Medical Officer says that if you do drink as much as 14 units each week, it’s best to spread this evenly over three days or more, as heavy drinking sessions can increase your risk of death from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries.

The previous guidelines were issued 20 years ago, when the links between alcohol and cancer and heart disease were not proven. But they are now.

Research now indicates that the risk of developing a range of illnesses – including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast – increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis.

This will come as a shock to many Doncaster people, who probably drink significantly more alcohol than 14 units each week.

The guidelines for pregnant women have also been updated to clarify that no level of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy. The previous advice was to limit themselves to one or two units once or twice a week.

The consequences of excessive drinking can be dire. In the 12 months to the end of June 2015, 399 Doncaster people were admitted to hospital with specific alcohol related problems, which is a higher rate than the national average.

 

So, faced with the medical evidence, this is a good time to seriously think about cutting down if you drink in excess of the new guidelines. If you do wish to reduce the amount you’re drinking, a good way of achieving this is to have several drink-free days each week.

As a doctor, I prefer not to tell people what to do, but to give factual information about the health risks linked to drinking alcohol so you can make informed decisions about any changes to your lifestyle.

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