Drinking too much alcohol can harm people’s health. Alcohol has an impact on people and societies in various ways and it is determined by the volume of alcohol consumed, the pattern of drinking, the quality of alcohol consumed and individual factors of the person himself.

ALCOHOL – Vida magazine

Alcohol consumption has been identified as a major risk factor for more than 200 health conditions, especially in the WHO European Region. Alcohol is the sixth leading cause of ill health and premature death in high-income countries. The World Health Organisation European Region has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world. This mainly relates to the high consumption in the central and eastern parts of the WHO European Region. It is estimated that around 70% of the adults in the WHO European Region drink alcohol and on average, Europeans consume 10.7 litres of pure alcohol per year. Unfortunately, alcohol also impacts the people around the person who is drinking, such as family members, friends, co-workers and even strangers. Drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems, such as mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence, major non-communicable diseases, as well as injuries resulting from violence and road clashes and collisions. Alcohol is also associated with risky sexual behaviours, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviours can result in unintended pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, as well as digestive problems. It can also lead to the development of cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. Alcohol can have effects on learning and memory problems, including dementia, poor school performance, and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Alcohol intake at any stage during pregnancy can cause complications and impair foetal development. Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can interfere with the neurological development of the foetus and is associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, prematurity, intellectual deficits, and physical malformations.

Many people have no idea on what excessive drinking is. The idea of counting alcohol units was first introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people keep track of their drinking. Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. What this means is that within an hour of having one unit of alcohol, there should
be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult. However, this varies from person to person depending on various conditions. The number of units in a drink is based
on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength. A unit is approximately half a pint of lager or a single measure of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.

It would be best to avoid alcohol and it is not recommended that those who do not drink, start drinking for any reason. Various guidelines have been developed for moderate
drinking, defining it as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. The Global Burden of Diseases study, a rolling project based at the University of
Washington, which produces the most comprehensive data on the causes of illness and death in the world, has determined that even the occasional drink is harmful to health and states that the safest level of drinking is none. There are some people who should not drink any alcohol at all, including those who are:

• Pregnant
• Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities
requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
• Taking certain prescription or over-the-counter
medications.
• Suffering from certain medical conditions.
• Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the
amount they drink.

By controlling alcohol consumption, one can reduce the risk of these short and long-term health risks. Here are some tips on how to cut down on the amount of alcohol consumed if you are a regular heavy drinker:

1. First plan and set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.
2. Set a budget and take only a fixed amount of money to
spend on alcohol when going out. Your friends and family
are there to support you so it is important to let them know
that you are cutting down so they will not offer you drinks.
The road is slow so take it one day at a time.
3. Cut back a little each day to ensure you do not revert. You
can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try drinking a
half instead of a full pint, or a small glass of wine instead of
a large one.
4. Have a lower-strength drink by swapping strong beers or
wines for ones with a lower strength.
5. Drink a pint of water before you start drinking, and don’t
use alcohol to quench your thirst.

DR CHARMAINE GAUCI
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine