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Summer is here and with it barbecues, beach parties, outdoor events and long evenings to enjoy in the company of family and friends and - inevitably - alcohol.
It feels hard to say no to alcohol at times, but the good news is you can have a social life without it or when you are trying to cut down. It doesn't always mean saying no to everything - it just means thinking a bit more carefully about what you say yes to!
Focus on other aspects of the event (for example food, good company, music) and See it as an experiment – you’ve committed to a break from alcohol and part of that is discovering what socialising feels like without it.
BUT, if you know in your heart of hearts that you won’t be able to resist a glass or two at a particular event, follow these tips and ideas for staying in control of your drinking.
Knowing ‘how much is too much’ can be confusing when it comes to alcohol. Most of us feel that we know when we’ve overdone it, but sometimes drinking can ‘creep up’ on us and, over time, we can find that we’re drinking more than we would like.
Not everyone drinks every day – some of us only drink at the weekend, some of us only drink on certain evenings of the week. It's safest not to drink more than 14 units per week, spread over three or more days and with a few days off. 14 units is roughly six pints of lager or one and a half bottles of wine.
A good way to help you keep the risk low is to have several alcohol-free days each week.
Not sure whether your drinking falls into the guidelines? Take the Rethink your drink quiz:
Alcohol is linked to more than 60 medical conditions including liver disease, at least six forms of cancer and depression. It can affect your body in all sorts of different ways; explore some of the most common effects on our body map.
The immediate effects of drinking on your brain can include slurred speech, slow reactions, impaired memory and blackouts. Over the longer-term, heavy drinking can cause a number of different types of brain damage. Overuse of alcohol can worsen the symptoms of many mental health problems. In particular, it can lead to low mood and anxiety.
Mouth and throat
If you regularly drink above 14 units a week you are increasing your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), pharynx (upper throat) and oesophagus (food pipe). This risk increases further if you smoke.
Low-to-moderate alcohol consumption has a lower risk of developing heart but this risk starts to rise when if you are drinking more than 14 units per week. Heavy drinking is also associated with both hypertension (high blood pressure) and an increased risk of suffering a stroke.
More than 50 studies have confirmed that alcohol is a particular risk factor for breast cancer. Alcohol seems to increase production of the female hormone oestrogen, and excess oestrogen can make breast cells cancerous.
Drinking too much can cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and stomach ulcers. It can also lead to uncomfortable reflux – digestive contents being forced up into your oesophagus (food pipe). Heavy drinking can also increase your risk of stomach and bowel cancer.
Most alcohol that goes into your body is processed by your liver, and if it has to break down too much alcohol the health of your liver will suffer. Long-term, drinking too much alcohol can lead to fatty liver, hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and also liver cancer.
Thinking about your drinking but not sure where to start? Here are some tips for cutting back:
Think and drink in units
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (top doctors) recommend not drinking more than 14 units a week; that means about six pints of lager or a bottle and a half of wine. Use the Alcohol Change Uk handy unit calculator to help you work out exactly what you’re drinking.
Enjoy each drink slowly, and remember that you don’t have to join in every time someone else decides to drink! It can help to only drink the drinks you really enjoy and skip the ones you’re drinking for the sake of it. And it's worth bearing in mind that the drinks you pour at home are often larger than those served in pubs.
Keep a drinking diary
Keeping a drinking diary for a few weeks will help you understand your drinking pattern, so you can work out what you’re happy with and what you’re not. Try the Drink Free Days app to help you keep track.
Track your drinking: Drink Free Days
Drink Free Days is for people who like a drink but want help to cut down. Guidelines recommend we take at least 3 days off drinking a week. Feel healthier, lose weight and save money: simply nominate days to take off drinking and get practical, daily support to help you stick to it. Research shows that people who dedicate days off can stick to their goals better than those who don’t.
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