Now 2012 has arrived, the Public Health Agency is encouraging people to make a New Year’s resolution to know their limits when it comes to alcohol, not to drink excessively and to cut back for a while, especially if the festive period led to a little too much consumption.
Owen O’Neill, PHA Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager and drugs and alcohol lead, explained: “The New Year is a great opportunity for us to be positive about our health, making resolutions that make us look and feel better. If people choose to drink, staying within the safe drinking limits is important. Excessive and binge drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. Drinking too much can also increase the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour as well as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. And it doesn’t have to be drinking to extremes – regularly drinking over the recommended limits can have a damaging effect.
“Remember that for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases. It’s important to spread the units throughout the week and not ‘save’ them for the weekend and to drink plenty of water, ideally matching the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
“For those who have consumed a lot of alcohol over the festive season, cutting back in the New Year and being careful can have immediate, positive effects particularly on helping you to look and feel better, being less tired during the day, feeling fitter and perhaps losing weight. Longer term, the benefits include improved mood, sleep, memory and general health, particularly improving liver function, immunity to illness and preventing any damage caused by any excessive drinking getting any worse.”
Daily alcohol limits are recommended by the government to avoid the dangers of excessive and binge drinking in any one session. These are:
No more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day and no more than 21 units over the course of the week.
No more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units over the course of the week.
Examples of units:
- Can of extra strong lager – 4 units
- Bottle of lager – 1.5 units
- Small pub bottle of wine – 2.25 units
- Pub measure of spirits – 1.5 units
- Pint of stout – 2.5 units
- Pint of cider – 3 units
For further information on sensible drinking and alcohol units visit the Public Health Agency’s website www.knowyourlimits.info
Contact PHA Press Office Tel: (028) 9031 1611
Notes to the editor
- The Public Health Agency takes the lead on the DHSSPS New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs 2006–2011.
- A booklet to help parents talk to their children about alcohol, You, Your Child and Alcohol, is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies, Post Offices and from the publications section on the PHA website, www.publichealth.hscni.net.
If you do drink alcohol:
- Ever drink and drive
- Drink on an empty stomach
- Drink in rounds as this may speed up the frequency of your drinking pattern
- Leave your drinks unattended
- Take sips rather than gulps
- Alternate each alcoholic drink with a non alcoholic drink eg water or a soft drink
- Set yourself a limit and try to stick to it (refer to daily alcohol limits)
- Take frequent breaks from drinking to give your body time to recover
- Tell friends and family where you are going and who you will be with
Further information on the effects of excessive drinking can be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Tipsoncuttingdown.aspx
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 exaggerate this, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
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.
Drinking can affect your judgment 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.
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 is an important part of preventing it getting worse.
Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.