In amongst the celebrations of New Year, one of the most common resolutions will be to cut down on the amount of alcohol we drink. Some of us may look for a short-term detox, while others may think about cutting out alcohol altogether.
Reducing how much alcohol we drink can be hugely beneficial to our health for a number of reasons. These include:
- Improving our general physical and mental health
- Eliminating that horrible hangover headache and stomach upset
- Significantly reducing the risk of some serious illnesses, such as certain cancers, liver disease and stroke
- Helping any attempt at weight loss, as alcoholic drinks contain plenty of calories - gram for gram alcohol contains almost as many calories as fat and an average pint of beer contains around 200 calories, while a 12% bottle of wine contains well over 500 calories
- Ensuring we get a better night's sleep.
Drinking too much alcohol is also thought to cost the NHS around £3.5bn a year in the treatment of alcoholism as well as associated health conditions. 1
Cutting back and safe drinking limits
Two of the easiest ways to start reducing how much you drink is to start slowing down and also drink smaller versions of your normal drink. Try swapping a bottle of beer for your usual pint, or have a smaller glass of wine. It is also a good idea to drink one soft drink between each alcoholic beverage you have, which will both slow you down and ensure you remain hydrated. Switching to lower alcohol versions of the same drink (beer varies from under 3% to 9% alcohol depending on brand) can also help.
You might want to try gradually reducing how much you drink, so look to stay within the healthy limits. These are three to four units per day for men and two to three units per day for women. One or two alcohol-free days per week is also recommended.
You may also want to check the percentage of the drinks you buy. The higher the percentage, the more units of alcohol it contains. Keep your eye out for lower alcohol levels or alcohol-free versions instead.
Taking days off and asking for help
If you're used to having alcohol every day, it can be difficult to take a break. However, the health benefits include 'resetting' tolerance levels so that your body becomes less used to alcohol and finds it easier to cut down. Government guidelines recommend at least one alcohol-free day a week.
Your family and friends might surprise you with how supportive they are if you tell them you're looking to cut back. Your GP can also help if you feel you might be dependent on alcohol.
If you want to understand a little more about alcohol and how to manage your drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle, you can find support through DrinkAware.
If you're concerned about your drinking and think it may be becoming a problem for your health or lifestyle, you can turn to Alcohol Concern.
If you have a drink problem and need support, visit Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you need support coping with a friend or family member who has a drinking problem, visit Al-Anon.