How to keep your risk low
Drinking within the low risk drinking guidelines can help keep health risks from the effects of alcohol low.
If you do choose to drink, you should spread the units evenly across the week rather than “saving-up” all your drinks for one or two days. If you want to cut down, a great way is to have several drink-free days a week. Test out having a break from alcohol for yourself and see what positive results you notice.
Alcohol and the heart
It was previously thought that some alcohol was good for the heart. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance now points out that very low levels of drinking can have cardio-protective effects for older women (aged 55 and over drinking around 5 units a week).
The guidance now reflects a better understanding of the health harms linked to drinking alcohol than in previous years. By drinking more than the low risk drinking guidelines you could be seriously damaging your health without realising it.
Instantly cut-back by drinking more slowly, ensure you have eaten properly or alternate alcoholic drinks with a soft drink or water.
The alcohol content of drinks is measured in units. One unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This equals one 25ml single measure of whisky (ABV 40%), a third of a pint of beer (ABV 5-6%) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (ABV 12%).
Visit our What is an alcohol Unit? page to watch a short animation which clearly explains more.
Are you a binge drinker?
The NHS defines binge drinking as “drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk”.1
The definition used by the Office of National Statistics for binge drinking is having over 8 units in a single session for men and over 6 units per women.2
Of course, people may drink at different speeds or drink over a different amount of time and so not everyone will interpret this definition in exactly the same way.
What we can say is that the risk of short-term harms like accidents or injuries increase between two to five times from drinking five-seven units.3 This is equivalent to 2-3 pints of beer.