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Alcohol’s hidden harms

Many people who see themselves as ‘social drinkers’ are at risk of developing long-term health conditions because of the amount of alcohol they regularly drink.  Regularly exceeding the recommended units limit can increase your risk of developing a wide range of long-term health problems including cancers, strokes and heart attacks. Alcohol’s hidden harms usually only emerge after a number of years, by which time serious health problems have developed.

Know your units

With so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints – not to mention bottles – it's easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink.  The NHS has developed a unit calculator which can help. Go to this web-site for more information:

The risk of drinking too much

Drinkers can be divided into three risk categories: 

  • lower-risk drinkers 
  • increasing-risk drinkers
  • higher-risk drinkers

Lower-risk drinking means that you have a low risk of causing yourself future harm.  However, drinking consistently within these limits is called "lower-risk" rather than "safe" because drinking alcohol is never completely safe.  Being in the lower-risk category means you are not regularly drinking more than the NHS recommended unit limit.

Increasing-risk drinking increases the risk of damaging your health. Alcohol affects all parts and systems of the body, and it can play a role in numerous medical conditions. Drinking at this level means you are regularly drinking above the recommended unit level. 

Higher-risk drinking means you have an even higher risk of damaging your health compared with increasing-risk drinkers.  Higher-risk drinking is:

  • regularly drinking more than 8 units a day or 50 units a week if you're a man
  • regularly drinking more than 6 units a day or 35 units a week if you're a woman 

Again, alcohol affects the whole body and can play a role in numerous medical conditions. You have a much higher risk of developing alcohol-related health problems. Your body has probably suffered some damage already, even if you’re not yet aware of it.

How much are you drinking?

Calculate or log how many alcohol units you are drinking with a free, easy to use NHS Drinks Tracker app.

Need support?

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s drinking call the confidential NHS alcohol service provided in Nottinghamshire by the Recovery Partnership on 0800 5200 500.

Staying healthy over summer

With summer beginning, you’ll have the perfect excuse to get that bottle of wine out with your family barbecque or picnic. However, the more alcohol you drink the greater the health risk, so try to find other alternatives to drinking.

There are more benefits of cutting down on drinking than you may think. These include: feeling better in the mornings, having more energy, feeling less tired and your skin may also start to look better. As well as this, if you drink ten pints a week you could be piling on over 120,000 calories a year.

Regularly drinking alcohol over the guidelines can lead to serious health risks such as cancer, strokes, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, pancreatitis and reduced fertility. The more you drink the higher the risk of you getting these health problems is.

There are many simple alternatives to drinking alcohol such as having a relaxing bath, doing some light exercise or starting a new hobby. Also avoid stocking up on alcohol when you go to the shops as you’re more likely to drink a bottle of wine if you have easy access to it.

Mocktail not cocktail

However, if you find that you can’t quite fight the urge to grab that can of beer or glass of wine then try making a mocktail instead. These refreshing non-alcoholic drinks will quench your thirst and stop you from pouring another glass.

A Shirley Temple is easy to make, simply pour lemonade and a dash of grenadine syrup over ice and then add a maraschino cherry.
To make a Virgin Mary, mix together 6oz tomato juice, a dash of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and finally 2 drops Tabasco sauce.

A Toothless Shark is even easier to make. Stir together 6 parts orange juice and 1 part lime juice in a glass then pour in 1 part grenadine.

So instead of having that cocktail, make a mocktail instead.