As Christmas approaches, it can be hard not to get carried away with the ‘good cheer.’ Christmas drinking can quickly add up. First come the office parties. Then the Christmas catch-ups with friends, swiftly followed by family festivities – and that’s all before we get to New Year’s Eve. It’s easy to see how the units in drinks can quickly add up. What might not be so clear is the how they’re affecting your health and wellbeing.
Christmas and New Year are a great time to let your hair down and have some fun, and many of us drink more at this time of year than at any other time. In fact, did you know that alcohol consumption in the UK increases more at this time of year than anywhere else in the world.
The problem with Christmas is that it can often be a time of excess, both when it comes to eating and drinking, and it can be hard to say no to another cocktail, pint or glass of wine at your office party. So how do you know when you’ve had enough; how much is too much when it comes to booze this Christmas?
A glass of wine a day
“A glass of wine a day is good for you.” Is there any truth in this, or is it just a health myth? The World Health Organisation warns us that alcohol isn’t safe to drink at all due to the fact it can increase your risk of cancer. However, studies do point towards numerous health benefits linked to consuming a moderate amount of alcohol. Research in the past has shown a link between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of heart disease. But it’s worth noting this doesn’t apply to individuals who already have high blood pressure, existing heart disease or type 2 diabetes
An increased risk of cancer
Most of us are aware that consuming alcohol could increase your risk of cancer, particularly mouth, throat, breast, bowel and liver cancer, and you don’t need to be a heavy drinker to experience this increased risk. Staying within the government’s guidelines of two drinks a day for men and one for women can help to reduce this risk. Did you know that regularly drinking a large glass of wine or pint of beer a day (both containing around 3 units) can significantly increase your risk of cancer.
Heavy drinking can also lead to long-term problems such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, as well as stroke, pancreatitis and high blood pressure.
Accident and Emergency
Many doctors have blamed the general lack of alcohol awareness and the low cost of alcohol for rising binge drinking rates across the UK, and it’s fair to say that conflicting information in the news can be so stressful it may leave you feeling in need of a drink!
Accident and Emergency departments treat more people for accidents and illnesses caused by alcohol at Christmas than at any other time of year. In 2011, 126,000 people in England aged 16 to 34 needed hospital treatment because of alcohol. It’s a problem that is costing the NHS £3 billion a year, with alcohol-related admissions ranging from long-term problems with the liver and heart to head injuries and broken bones caused by drunken accidents.
With alcohol more affordable today than ever before, figures for alcohol-related accidents and injuries are also on the rise – between 2011 and 2012, there was a 26% rise in the number of women admitted to hospital due to alcohol.
Long Term Plans
Watching what you drink this Christmas sounds great — but what happens when the festive seasons and even ‘Dry January’ ends? No matter if you choose to start drinking again or stay sober, watching what you drink is a great way to get some perspective and reflect on how alcohol makes you feel.
If you go into complete abstinence and you feel better and you’ve lost weight and you’re exercising more and you’re sleeping better — I think that’s a message that your body is telling you, and I think we need to listen to the message that our body is telling us.
What you do with your drinking habits is ultimately about your own goals and resolutions, but the bottom line is that if you’re thinking about stopping or cutting back on your drinking, it’s an excellent time to start.
if you think you may have a problem with drinking, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/ for more information on how to get help.