How alcohol affects your health and wellbeing

Many people drink alcohol as a way to relax or socialise. As long as you don’t drink in excess and lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle, there is no reason why alcohol will damage your health. However, there are known links between excessive drinking and health problems.

The effects of alcohol

Many people in Suffolk and the wider UK drink alcohol in large amounts that mean it is harmful to their health. Drinking in excess can cause disease, injury and even death. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a major cause of health conditions in the UK.

There is actually no amount of alcohol consumption that is safe for everyone. There are recommendations which are declared as ‘low-risk drinking’ by Drink Aware.

The recommendations

Both men and women are advised to drink less than 14 units of alcohol per week. 14 units are the equivalent of:

  • 6 pints of beer (4% alcohol content)
  • 6 175ml glasses of wine (13% alcohol content)
  • 14 25ml glasses of whisky (40% alcohol)

If you are going to drink then it’s also best to spread this evenly throughout the week rather than have it all at once. Also, it is recommended that there are days when you don’t drink alcohol at all.

There are, of course, people who need to have fewer units or none at all. If you are pregnant, there are no recommended safe limits. You shouldn’t drink alcohol at all. Also, certain medications can be affected by alcohol consumption so it is always advisable to check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Effects of alcohol in the short term

Lots of people in Suffolk drink more than they should on a single night out. This is called binge drinking. When alcohol is consumed in this way, it can cause:

  • Lack of judgement
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Accidental injuries
  • Self-harm or deliberate harm to others
  • Alcohol poisoning (this can be fatal)
  • Hangovers

Effects of drinking alcohol long term

Drinking above the recommended limits is known to have a negative effect on your health.

It can lead to addiction and dependence, particularly if you already suffer from anxiety or depression. This can also mean you are at more risk of suicide.

Alcohol’s effects on the brain

Drinking in excess can affect judgement, concentration, memory and mood. You will be increasing your risk of developing dementia or having a stroke.

Alcohol’s effects on the heart

Drinking too much will increase your blood pressure. This can lead to heart attacks and heart damage.

Alcohol’s effects on the liver

Even going over the recommendations slightly will increase your risk of developing liver problems. You will have an increased risk of liver cancer. Drinking heavily over a long period of time will also increase your risk of liver cirrhosis and death.

Alcohol’s effects on the stomach

Even a couple of drinks per day will increase your risk of developing stomach cancer, bowel cancer and stomach ulcers.

Alcohol and fertility

Drinking heavily on a regular basis causes a reduction in men’s testosterone levels, sperm count and, therefore, their fertility. If a woman drinks too heavily, her periods can be affected.

How to reduce the amount you are drinking

Reducing alcohol consumption can improve your physical and mental health. There are many ways that you can cut down. It’s important that you know how to cut down in the right way to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Using low-alcohol options

Low-alcohol drinks are ones which have a strength between 0.05% and 1.2%. Reduced alcohol drinks have reduced strength in comparison to the average for the type of drink. For example, reduced alcohol wine might have a strength of 6%, rather than the usual 13%.

Choosing lower-alcohol options means you will consume fewer units of alcohol over the same number of drinks.

In the short-term, you will sleep better, feel fresher when you wake up and will be consuming fewer calories. In the long-term, you will be reducing your risks of developing cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and mental health problems.

Alcohol-free days

Having days where you don’t consume alcohol is really beneficial to your health. Particularly if these days are consecutive.

Having alcohol-free days will give your body a chance to clean out your system and rest your liver. You will also notice an immediate difference in how you sleep and the calories you consume.

Only drinking with dinner

Having a rule that you only drink alcohol with meals means that you will drink less.

Drinking with meals means you are more likely to appreciate the drink. Matching what you’re drinking to your meal can enhance your enjoyment of both the meal and the drink.

Also, drinking when you’re eating will slow down the rate at which the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.