Healthy alcohol limits

The consumption of alcohol is a regular occurrence in our society. It's strongly linked to how we like to socialise and when consumed within moderate limits it isn't generally a problem for most people. For some people - men over 40 and women past the menopauses - low intakes of one or two drinks a day can actually reduce the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. However, drinking more doesn't offer more protection, and above the recommended limits alcohol soon begins to increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

To help us quantify the amount of we drink, alcohol is measured in units. This is easily calculated by multiplying the alcohol percentage of your drink with the volume of the drink (in litres).

For example a large glass (250ml) of wine (strength 12%) will contain 3 units of alcohol - worked out like this:

0.25 litres x 12 = 3 units

You can quickly work out your own alcohol intake with this easy calculator.

What are the healthy limits?

The widely-accepted guidelines for alcohol consumption are:

Males : no more than four units per day with a weekly maximum of 21 units per week

Females : no more than three units per day with a weekly maximum of 14 units per week

The consumption of alcohol should be spread evenly across the week if possible and you should avoid binge-drinking. If you do have one day where you drink an increased amount, always follow it with a day or two where you drink little or no alcohol at all.

Easy ways to stay drink healthily

If you drink more than the recommended limits on a regular basis, these simple tips might help you to cut back:

Make them smaller

Go for smaller sizes by drinking bottles of beer or ordering a smaller glass of wine.

Have a lower-strength drink

Swap the strong beers for one that is a lower strength (ABV in %). This information can be found on the bottle.

Stay hydrated

Before you start drinking have a pint of water and avoid alcohol if trying to quench your thirst.

Have a day off

Each week you should have at least a couple of days when you don't drink any alcohol.

Plan your drinking

Before you head out set yourself a maximum limit on how much you're about to drink.

Budget your drinking

Limit yourself to a certain amount of money to spend on alcohol - take cash and leave the cards at home.

Let other people know

Friends and family could help support you in cutting down if you let them know your intentions. Some of them might even join in with you.

Take it a day at a time

Try and cut back a little each day. That way, every day can be a success.


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