It’s January, and a good time for all of us to reflect upon how much alcohol we drink. Whether your taking part in Dry January or your New Year’s resolution is to drink a little less, cutting back on your alcohol intake has great benefits for your health.
In this blog, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, professor of hepatology and Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, shares his top tips to help you cut down on your drinking and improve your health.
Know your units
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) recommend drinking no more than 14 units a week – with some alcohol-free days. Usually this works out to be around six pints of beer or a bottle of wine a week, but this will depend on the strength of the product you are drinking.
Use the unit calculator from Alcohol Change UK to help you work out the strength of your drink of choice so you know how much alcohol it contains.
Use technology to keep track of your drinking
Download the free Dry January app to help you cut down on your drinking, whatever the time of year. The app helps you keep track of your drinking patterns, units, calories and money spent on alcohol. This is a great way to help you reach your goals.
Start a new hobby
If your social activities centre around visits to the pub or you find yourself pouring a drink to fend off boredom, it might be time to find a way to keep busy and have fun without alcohol. Research sports clubs and night classes in your area which help you develop new skills and make memories.
Take a break
Taking a few weeks off alcohol for Dry January or Sober October is good for several reasons. It allows you to see that there is a life without alcohol and, importantly, you are not dependent on it. People often notice within a few days that they sleep better and have more energy. Some choose not to return to drinking, others notice that they are more aware and drink less in the months that follow. Studies have shown that just one month off alcohol results in measurable health benefits, such as to the liver, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Ask for help
If you find it hard to give up drinking on your own or you are drinking about the CMOs’ drinking guideline, you might need a little more support. Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help. Book an appointment with your GP and talk to them about what’s going on. You can also find your local alcohol support services listed on the NHS website who can also offer guidance if you are worried about someone else’s drinking.
Written by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, there is help available.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Calls are free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9.00am to 8.00pm, weekends 11.00am to 4.00pm).
More information about organisations which offer help and support can be found on our support page.
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.