It is more important than ever before to be looking after ourselves. But drinking too much alcohol can put our health at risk and make us feel worse during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has been a worrying time, but drinking most days can weaken our immune system against infectious diseases like Covid. It can also increase the risk of cancer, heart attack, anxiety and stroke.
Balance is launching a new campaign “Alcohol – Not the Answer” to encourage people to cut down and take more drink free days. Figures suggest that nearly 400,000 people in the North East and over 8m people nationally have been drinking more since the pandemic began, many at worryingly high levels.
Here’s how alcohol can affect us:
Immune system: Alcohol use, especially heavy use, can weaken the immune system and leave us more vulnerable to infectious diseases like Covid.
Health: Regularly drinking above 14 units a week increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and seven types of cancer. Cutting down is one great way to help reduce blood pressure.
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, low mood and anxiety. Drinking could be making you feel more tired and more down.
Weight: Many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks – reducing how much alcohol we drink is a good way to cut our calories.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “These are worrying times, but drinking more is not the answer. In fact it might be making many people feel worse.
“We are encouraging people to take more drink free days and try to stay within no more than 14 units a week. Keeping alcohol in check is an important way to protect our overall health and fitness for the time when we emerge from this crisis.”
Chief Medical Officer guidelines are that men and women should not drink more than 14 units a week to keep health risks from alcohol low. 14 units means around six pints of regular strength beer or lager, six standard glasses of wine or seven double measures of spirits a week.
For tips, tools, stories and advice to help you cut down visit reducemyrisk.tv
1. 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.
2. Having at least three drink-free days every week can help you cut down on how much you’re drinking. Visit http://www.reducemyrisk.tv/support/ to download the free Drink Free Days app from Public Health England.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. If you feel like you should cut down, you’re in good company. An estimated 1 in 3 North East drinkers cut down or stopped drinking alcohol during the spring / summer lockdown.
7. 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
8. 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
9. 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).
10. Consuming alcohol is not an excuse to drop social distancing. Keeping to social distancing rules can help prevent pressure on the NHS.