Healthy Peterborough

Alcohol

Know your booze limits

For some of us, the festive season is a time of excess drinking and partying. It’s good to relax and socialise, but drinking too much too quickly on any single occasion can increase your risk of misjudging risky situations, of accidents resulting in injury and causing death in some cases, and of losing self-control, like having unprotected sex.

To reduce your health risks:

  • limit how much you drink
  • drink more slowly
  • drink with food
  • alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks

In the long term, drinking more than 14 units a week (about six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine) can also lead to a wide range of long-term health problems including cancer, stroke and heart attack.

At the end of the festive season, why not consider signing up for Dry January and taking a month off alcohol?  

Download the One You Drinks Tracker app today and use it to:

• Easily keep track of how much you are drinking over the week and beyond 
• Use the Drinks Manager to spot when you’re overdoing it
• See how much you're spending on alcohol, its might be more than you thought!
• Learn more about the risks and how many units you’re consuming 
• Get practical tips on cutting down, such as having alcohol free days, not drinking at home before you go out, or swapping to lower alcohol or alcohol free drinks

 

 

 

Tips on cutting down on alcohol

If you regularly drink more than 14 units a week, try these simple tips to help you cut down.

Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.

Make a plan
Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.

Set a budget
Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.

Let them know
If you let your friends and family know you’re cutting down and that it’s important to you, you could get support from them.

Take it a day at a time
Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.

Make it a smaller one
You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one.

Have a lower-strength drink
Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You'll find this information on the bottle.

Stay hydrated
Drink a pint of water before you start drinking, and don't use alcohol to quench your thirst. Have a soft drink instead.

Take a break
Have several drink-free days each week.

You may be surprised to find out how much you actually drink. Print a drinks diary to track your drinking over a week. 

Benefits of cutting down

The immediate effects of cutting down include:

  • feeling better in the mornings

  • being less tired during the day

  • your skin may start to look better

  • you’ll start to feel fitter

  • you may stop gaining weight

Long-term benefits include:

Mood
There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.

Sleep
Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.

Behaviour
Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.

Heart
Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed, but stopping drinking can stop it getting worse.

Immune system
Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.

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Do you know the amount of calories in alcohol?

Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps?

The average wine drinker in England takes in around 2,000kcal from alcohol every month.

Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.

Many drinkers add to their calorie count by having snacks, such as crisps, nuts or pork scratchings, to accompany their tipple.

A heavy drinking session is often followed by an unhealthy breakfast to help cope with a hangover, which again helps to pile on the pounds.

Going for a fry-up instead of your usual bowl of cereal can add an extra 450kcal to the calorie count from the night before.

The findings are based on an online survey of nearly 2,000 adults in England in March 2009 by YouGov for the Department of Health.

Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline as well as cause less obvious but more serious health problems.

Many women don’t realise that two large glasses of white wine not only puts them over the recommended daily limit for regular alcohol consumption, but also provides them with nearly 20% of their recommended daily calorie intake, at approximately 370kcal in total.

Most people would baulk at consuming a full glass of single cream, but wouldn’t think twice about the calorie content of a couple of pints. But the calorie content is similar and, over time, excess alcohol intake can easily contribute to gaining weight.

Wine, beer, cider, spirits and all our favourite drinks are made from natural starch and sugar. Fermentation, and distillation for certain drinks, is used to produce the alcohol content. This helps explain why alcohol contains lots of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, almost as many as a gram of fat. And, of course, additional calories can be present in added mixer drinks.

Tips to avoid weight gain

To reduce the chances of gaining weight from drinking alcohol, follow these tips from the British Nutrition Foundation:

  • Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you do reach for snacks while drinking, opt for a healthier option – choose a sandwich instead of crisps or chips, or choose a chicken burger without mayonnaise instead of a kebab with garlic sauce.
  • Drinking in rounds can mean you end up drinking more than you intended. Opt out and drink at your own pace.
  • Try cutting down with a friend, as you’ll be more likely to stick to it with moral support.
  • Eat a healthier dinner before you start drinking. Order or cook before you start drinking so you’re not tempted to go for the less healthy options.
  • Pace yourself by taking small sips.
  • Avoid "binge drinking" – it is not advisable to "save up" your units to splurge at the weekend.
  • If you’re drinking white wine, why not add a splash of soda water to help the same number of units last longer?

For more help on reducing your alcohol intake, read Tips on cutting down.

5 benefits of drinking less

1. Drinking less reduces the risk of harming your health

Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week risks damaging your health. Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.  

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.

2. Cutting down makes you feel better

The immediate effects of cutting down include feeling better in the mornings, being less tired during the day, your skin may start to look better and you’ll start to feel fitter.

3. Drinking less alcohol reduces the chances of gaining weight

Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps? Or that drinking five pints of lager a week adds up over a year and is equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.

Tips to avoid weight gain include:

  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this will help to prevent you becoming dehydrated.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you do reach for snacks while drinking, opt for a healthier option.
  • If you’re drinking white wine, why not add a splash of soda water to help the same number of units last longer?

4. Not drinking while pregnant is the safest approach

The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.

In addition to the risk of miscarriage, more recent research found that drinking, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy, also increases the risk of premature birth and low birthweight.

5. Avoiding binge drinking keeps you in control

Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk. Binge drinking increases the risk of accidents, like head injuries and fractures, alcohol poisoning and heart disease

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks spread your drinking over three days or more days.

 

 

Support and Useful Links

 

What do 14 units of alcohol look like?

UK government guidelines state that the alcohol limit for men and women is the same. Both should not regularly drink more than 14 units per week to keep health risks from drinking alcohol low.

If you do drink up to 14 units a week, it's best to spread these evenly across a few days and to have at least two drink-free days a week.

Don't 'save up' your units, best to spread evenly over the week. Use a unit calculator to see how many units you are drinking.

What is a unit?

One unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, units are a way to tell how strong your drink is.  It takes an average adult around an hour to process one unit of alcohol so that there's none left in their bloodstream, although this varies from person to person.

 

Binge drinking


Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk.

Researchers define binge drinking as consuming eight or more units in a single session for men and six or more for women.

However, this definition does not apply to everyone because the tolerance and the speed of drinking in a session varies from person to person.

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.

During a single drinking session, try to: 

  • limit how much you drink
  • drink more slowly
  • drink with food
  • alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks

Keeping track of your drinking is even more important if you are out in risky or unfamiliar circumstances. You can be at risk from others, and may not be able to look after your friends.

You can easily lose control of what you do or say and may make risky decisions, thinking you're invulnerable.

Binge drinking increases the risk of:

  • accidents, like head injuries and fractures
  • alcohol poisoning
  • heart disease

Drink-by-drink guide

Below is a drink-by-drink guide, based on a standard (175ml) 12% volume glass of white wine and 4% strength pint of lager, showing how quickly alcohol can affect your mind and body.

One glass of white wine or a pint of lager (approximately two units):

  • You're talkative and you feel relaxed.
  • Your self-confidence increases.
  • Driving ability is already impaired, which is why it is best to drink no alcohol if you're driving.

Two glasses of white wine or two pints of lager (approximately four units):

  • Your blood flow increases.
  • You feel less inhibited and your attention span is shorter.
  • You start dehydrating, one of the causes of a hangover.

Three glasses of white wine or three pints of lager (approximately six units):

  • Your reaction time is slower.
  • Your liver has to work harder.
  • Your sex drive may increase, while your judgement may decrease.

Four glasses of white wine or three and a half pints of lager (approximately eight units):

  • You're easily confused.
  • You're noticeably emotional.
  • Your sex drive could now decrease and you may become less capable.

Bear in mind that some people (including women, young people and those with smaller builds) may experience the effects after drinking smaller amounts of alcohol.

If you have developed a tolerance to alcohol you may find that some of these effects do not apply to you.

In that case, consider whether it is time to cut back on your drinking or whether you need to seek help.

Find out how to treat a hangover 

The risks of drinking too much alcohol

Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week risks damaging your health.

Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.  

New evidence around the health harms from regular drinking have emerged in recent years.

There is now a better understanding of the link between drinking and some illnesses, including a range of cancers.

The previously held position that some level of alcohol was good for the heart has been revised. It is now thought that the evidence on a protective effect from moderate drinking is less strong than previously thought.

Low risk drinking advice

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Pregnant women or women trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. Read more on pregnancy and alcohol.

No 'safe' drinking level

If you drink less than 14 units a week, this is considered low risk drinking.

It is called "low risk" rather than "safe" because there is no safe drinking level.

The type of illnesses you can develop after 10 to 20 years of regularly drinking more than 14 units a week include:

The effects of alcohol on your health will depend on how much you drink. The less you drink, the lower the health risks.

Read about alcohol units to work out how much alcohol there is in your drinks.

'Single session' drinking

Drinking too much too quickly on a single occasion can increase your risk of injuries and accidents, such as:

  • head injuries
  • fractures
  • facial injuries
  • scarring
  • alcohol poisoning
  • heart disease

To reduce your health risks during a single drinking session:

  • limit how much you drink 
  • drink more slowly
  • drink with food
  • alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks

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Track how much you are drinking

It may seem like you don't drink much, but a drink or two most evenings can do harm to your body. From making you gain weight to increasing your risk of cancer, alcohol can have serious effects on your body.

The more you drink, and the more often, the greater the risk to your health.

 
Drinking a bit too much can sneak up on you. Public Health England's free drinks tracker app makes it easy to keep an eye on the booze and take control with daily tips and feedback.

  • Compare your drinking with the alcohol unit guidelines.
  • Access simple tips and advice to help you cut down.
  • See how much money you could save by drink.

Download from Google Play

Download from iTunes

Cut down on booze - cut your cancer risk

Every year, alcohol causes around 12,800 cases of cancer in the UK (around 4% of all cancer cases). Alcohol increases the risk of seven types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, upper throat, voice box, food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.

The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer so it's always worth keeping track of and reducing the amount that you drink. No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, it is the alcohol itself that leads to the damage, regardless of whether it is in wine, beer or in spirits. There’s no ‘safe’ limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer, but the risk is smaller for people who drink within the government guidelines.

The government guidelines are given in units of alcohol. One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 10ml of pure alcohol content is not the same as one drink. Most alcoholic drinks contain more than 1 unit. The number of units in a drink is determined by the size of the drink and how strong it is.

Even low levels of drinking can increase the risk of some cancers – but drinking within these limits keeps the health risks low. To reduce the risk of harming your health:

  • Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • It is recommended to spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.

Aside from cancer, alcohol can also lead to accidents and injuries, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease and pancreatitis. Cutting down could help reduce the risk of these conditions as well. Also, drinking less can help you avoid hangovers, sleep better, cut out some ‘empty’ calories and save money!

In many pubs and bars, drinks are being served in larger glasses or amounts, and drinks, especially wines, beers and ciders, come in a wide range of strengths. It can be difficult to keep track - to help you work out how many units you have had, download the new One You Drinks Tracker

Tips on cutting down:

There are lots of simple ways to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. It can help to work out if there are particular situations when you tend to have a drink and plan in advance. This may be after a difficult day at work or at a weekly pub quiz you go to with friends.

  • Take a break: Have more alcohol-free days a week.
  • Do it together: Tell a friend or partner that you’re cutting down on alcohol, they can support you – or even join you.
  • Avoid rounds: avoid buying drinks in rounds, that way you don’t have to keep pace with anyone.
  • Stay Hydrated: Swap every other alcoholic drink for a soft one – starting with your first drink.
  • Set a limit: If you are planning to drink alcohol, decide on a limit in advance and make sure you don’t go over it.
  • Go smaller or try a lower strength drink: Try a bottled beer instead of a pint, or go for a lower strength drink such as a shandy instead of a pint of beer, or swap some wine for a spritzer.
  • Avoid temptation: Don’t stock up on beer, wine or spirits at home.

Support & Useful Links - Alcohol

Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first step to getting better, but it is often the hardest one.

You may need help if:

  • You always feel the need to have a drink. 
  • You get into trouble because of your drinking.
  • Other people warn you about how much you’re drinking.

Specialist Alcohol Service

CGL Aspire can help you to map out your own personal recovery journey to achieve your own personal goals. 

102-104 Bridge Street
Peterborough
PE1 1DY

Telephone: 01733 895624

Talk to your GP

A good place to start is with your GP. Be honest with them about how much you drink. Your GP may refer you to a local community alcohol service CGL Aspire.

 

Useful links

Information to support you to cut down or stop drinking is available through a number of national websites. Some of the key sites are provided below while for those that need it there is local support.

 

           

               

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