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Health Defence Blog

Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

How many drinks do you have a week? And what on earth is a unit of alcohol? Here, Jude Misson, Health Information Manager at CHSS, separates fact from fiction:

In January 2016, the UK Government changed the guidelines about alcohol for the first time in over 20 years.  They recommend a new weekly limit to minimise the risks to your health. It's best to stay within these guidelines but, the bottom line is that there is no ‘safe’ limit. Read on to find out more:

For people who drink regularly or frequently, the new recommendation (which is now the same for men and women) is that:

  • You are safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week
  • If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly across the week

But what is a unit of alcohol?

It is an easy way of telling how strong your drink is. The more units, the more alcohol in your drink. One unit equals 10ml of pure alcohol.

So what does that mean in real terms....

  • It's smaller than you think, just 76ml of standard strength wine (13%) is one unit
  • And it's less than a pint of beer.... in fact just 250ml (or just under half a pint) is a unit of beer (4% strength)
  • Or just 25ml of spirit (40% strength)
  • So 14 units per week means that you should drink no more than ... 6 medium glasses (175ml) of wine; or 6 pints of standard strength beer; or 14 measures (25ml) of spirits per week.

Drinkaware has more information to help you work out how many units are in your usual drink – have a look, you might be quite shocked!

Apart from the health benefits, there are other gains to be made from reducing the amount of alcohol you drink. These include:

  • Sleeping better and having more energy
  • Saving money (the average adult in the UK spends £747 a year on alcohol)
  • Losing weight (a pint of beer or large glass of wine contains about 200 calories, similar to a slice of pizza)
  • Better skin
  • And more time feeling great!

At the end of a busy day it’s all too easy to reach for a drink. How often do you find yourself justifying having a drink ... ‘I earned this’; ‘it's been a bad day'; 'it's been a good day'; ‘it’s Friday’; it’s Monday’....? To keep on track, here are some top tips to help:

  • Get someone else (ideally your partner or someone you live with) on board as well
  • Treat yourself to something nice with the money you have saved (perhaps that pair of skinny jeans since you've lost weight)
  • If you have alcohol in the house, keep it out of sight
  • If you are going to the pub, offer to be the designated driver
  • Get a hobby (no, not wine tasting!)
  • Try alcohol-free wines and beers – they are so much better than they used to be. Or, for a sense of occasion, try tonic with ice and a slice (no gin), or perhaps a mocktail
  • Choose a smaller glass (a pub measure of 250ml wine can be a whopping 3.3 units!)
  • Add a mixer - try a delicious shandy (lemonade with beer) or a wine spritzer (soda with wine) to reduce the units (and calories).

You can find more great facts and tips for cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink at Drinkaware.

Cheers to choosing your units wisely!

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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