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Alcohol use is one of the main lifestyle changes that can directly affect our health but a discussion on the subject can be complicated. We use alcohol after the end of a hard day to wind down, it’s central to our social activities and often turned to when bad and sad things happen.
However, alcohol is a drug and like all drugs can be addictive. In 2010 an analysis of different drugs was published in the Lancet which had determined that “overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places”.
Government guidelines on safe drinking limits have changed many times over the last few decades as research provides ever more evidence on the harmful effects of alcohol. And, the evidence is clear that the more we drink the greater the risk to our health. However, there’s also evidence that a very small amount of alcohol, possibly five units or fewer per week are actually better than zero. No doubt future studies will shed more light on the subject.
The current recommendations for men and women are for no more than fourteen units a week spread over a number of days with at least two alcohol free days a week.
In excess there is overwhelming evidence that alcohol is harmful. It can impair judgement, balance and coordination leading to accident or injury. Over the longer term, regular heavy drinking causes health problems. One very large meta analysis clearly demonstrated the increasing risk of death from heart disease the more one drank over the recommended 14 units per week. There are also the risks of cancers, liver disease and mental health conditions and drink related social problems.
Nobody wants to spoil anyone’s fun but by keeping within the guidance limits maybe you’ll have a better chance of still having fun in your 80s and 90s.
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