Stay healthy, stay safe
This is an important time to be looking after ourselves, both mentally and physically. And that includes not drinking too much alcohol.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful time, with the loss of established routines, children at home, and worries over the health of ourselves and our loved ones.
However, using alcohol is never a good way to cope. The Chief Medical Officer recommend that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
Alcohol can not only make us feel worse but put our health at risk:
Your immune system – the World Health Organisation states that:
- Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases.
- Alcohol will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance – it will not destroy the virus
- Regularly drinking more than 14 units a week raises our risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and
- Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds. The British Liver Trust has also responded to emerging evidence that liver disease may present worse outcomes for people who develop COVID-19.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of COVID-19. The WHO states: “In particular, as alcohol compromises the body’s immune system, there is an increased likelihood of being infected by the virus and of adverse health outcomes”
Your mental health - according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, regularly drinking alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain and can increase the risk of depression. Increased consumption can also affect our sleep, make us feel more tired and sluggish, and trap people in a cycle of feeling low and more anxious. People who have done Dry January often talk about feeling more positive and alert. Read this blog by consultant psychiatrist Dr Eilish Gilvarry.
Your weight: alcohol and mixer drinks contains lots of calories. The calorie equivalent of a large glass of white wine is the same as a slice of pizza or a cocktail is the equivalent of a cheeseburger. Being overweight is a risk factor for causing diabetes.
For those of us who are watching our weight, reducing how much alcohol we drink is a good way to better manage the number of calories we consume.
Research has shown that many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks. A survey of over 2,000 UK adults in 2014 showed that over 80% of people did not know or underestimated the number of calories in a large glass of wine, and over 60% of people did not know or underestimated the number of calories in a pint of lager.
Two standard glasses of wine or 330ml bottles of lager have around 300 calories – the same as a burger or a half hour backstroke swim. Being overweight is a major risk major risk factor for causing diabetes.
This situation is not helped by the fact that many alcohol producers do not list on their packaging the number of calories contained within their drinks.
What can I do?
Staying within 14 units a week is the best thing we can all do to keep our risks from alcohol low to stay healthy right now.
But what is 14 units?
Fourteen units means around six pints of regular strength beer or lager, six standard glasses of wine or seven double measures of spirits.
- Try not to stockpile alcohol. Limit the amount of alcohol you buy in and opt for non-alcoholic drinks to help you stay within the 14 unit low-risk weekly guidelines. To find out more visit reducemyrisk.tv
- Having at least three drink-free days every week is a great way to cut down on how much you’re drinking. Visit reducemyrisk.tv to download the free Drink Free Days app.
- With schools closed, think about being a good role model to your kids around alcohol, which includes how often and how much you drink alcohol. None of us want to teach our children that it’s normal to drink every night or to start each day at 4pm.
- You can track your units, calories and money saved when you cut down or cut out alcohol through the Try Dry app from Alcohol Change.
- Use a measure to pour your drinks – home-poured measures are often a lot more generous than those you’d get in the pub and contain more units and calories than a standard measure.
- If you feel like you should cut down, you’re in good company. An estimated 650,000 North East drinkers have cut down or stopped drinking alcohol during lockdown.
- If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can be tempting to turn to alcohol to help you relax. But here are some top ways to unwind from Alcohol Change UK that don’t involve alcohol https://alcoholchange.org.uk/blog/2018/five-ways-to-relax-without-alcohol
- When it comes to alcohol and young people, parents often find it confusing to know what to do for the best. The safest option is to follow the Chief Medical Officer guidelines that it is safest and healthiest for children to not drink before the age of 18. For advice every parent needs to know visit whatstheharm.co.uk
- Finally, if you are concerned about your own drinking or someone else’s, call the national alcohol helpline Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm).
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).