How to cut down on alcohol
The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you could cut your risk of cancer. Aside from cancer, alcohol can also cause accidents and injuries, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease and pancreatitis. Cutting down could help reduce the risk of these conditions as well.
Also, drinking less can help you avoid hangovers, save money, sleep better and cut out some ‘empty’ calories. So it's always worth reducing the amount you drink in the long term.
What are the government alcohol guidelines?
The government guidelines are given in units of alcohol. 1 unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol content. People are advised not to regularly drink more than:
2 - 3 units a day for women
3 - 4 units a day for men
It can be easier to think of the guidelines as drinks rather than units. That roughly works out as a limit of 1 drink a day for women, or 2 drinks a day for men.
The government also recommends that people avoid alcohol for at least 2 days afterwards if they’ve had a heavy drinking session.
The government recommends that women should avoid alcohol altogether for at least the first 3 months of pregnancy and if they're trying to become pregnant. If women choose to drink alcohol in later pregnancy, the government recommendation is to have no more than 1 or 2 drinks a week and to avoid binge drinking or being drunk.
What is a unit of alcohol?
A unit is not the same as a drink. Most alcoholic drinks contain more than 1 unit. The number of units in a drink is determined by the size of the drink and how strong (i.e. alcoholic) it is.
In many pubs and bars, drinks are being served in larger glasses or amounts, and drinks come in a wide range of strengths. The strength of a drink can make more difference than you might expect – a pint of 3.5% beer has around 2 units of alcohol, whereas the same amount of 5% beer has almost 3 units. This means that you might be drinking more alcohol than you think.
Tips to cut down on alcohol
There are lots of simple ways to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. It can help to work out if there are particular times or situations when you tend to have a drink, whether that’s a bad day at work or a weekly pub quiz tradition, and plan what you’ll say and do differently next time.
•Have more alcohol-free days a week. For liver health it’s best to have at least 2 days off alcohol in a row each week. Try agreeing on certain days with your partner or a friend and help each other to stick to it.
•If you are planning to drink alcohol, decide on a limit in advance and make sure you don’t go over it. •Swap every other alcoholic drink for a soft one – starting with your first drink.
•Try shandy instead of a pint of beer, or swap some wine for soda and have a spritzer.
•Don’t stock up on beer, wine or spirits at home.
•Finish one drink before pouring another, because topping up drinks makes it harder to keep track of how much you’ve had and when you planned to stop.
•Avoid buying drinks in rounds, that way you don’t have to keep pace with anyone.
•Tell a friend or partner that you’re cutting down on alcohol, they can support you – or even join you.