People in Scunthorpe area urged to make safe drinking a new year's resolution, suggests Barton doctor Robert Jaggs-Fowler
I do not need to be a clairvoyant to hazard the guess that there is a reasonable chance that alcohol may have played a significant part in your Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Hopefully, moderation was the watch-word for most readers.
However, what exactly is moderation, and how do we know whether we are imbibing at levels hazardous to our health?
George Bernard Shaw took the view that "alcohol is a very necessary article … It enables Parliament to do things at 11 at night that no sane person would do at 11 in the morning".' (Perhaps that explains our present re-organisation of the National Health Service?)
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Staying with politicians, Winston Churchill once famously defended his alcohol consumption with the pronouncement that "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me". While he may have been right about many things during his political career, the fact that he ultimately died of a stroke suggests that he may not have been correct in this one respect.
Alcohol is, for many of us, one of life's pleasures when used sensibly. However, the truth is that alcohol causes more than 60 different medical problems; often from damage you cannot easily see. In addition to tiredness, weight gain, memory loss, insomnia and sexual problems, alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, neck and breast. It also causes high blood pressure, brain damage, strokes, dementia, irregular heart rate, liver failure (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.
Sensible alcohol drinking means that men should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day, and women not more than 2-3 units per day on a regular basis (meaning every day or most days of the week). Alcohol should be avoided altogether during pregnancy and if trying to conceive.
As a rule of thumb, a single measure of spirit is 1 unit. A bottle of wine is 10 units; making a 250ml glass of wine 3 units, as is a pint of beer. A can of lager is 2 units, and a bottle of Alco-Pop is 1.5 units. As an example, men who regularly drink more than two pints of beer a day are three times more likely to get mouth cancer or suffer a stroke. Women who drink more than two large glasses of wine per day are twice as likely to have high blood pressure and have a 50 per cent higher risk of breast cancer.
For further information see www.nhs.uk/drinking. A free Smartphone app to track your drinking is available from http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/ Pages/drinks-tracker-mobile-app.aspx. It is not too late to make "Drink Safely – Live Longer" your new motto for 2013.