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How to reduce your alcohol intake

February 2011

Some people only drink on special occasions, like birthdays, to wet the baby's head, or to celebrate an accomplishment. Most people I know like a drink, or four, at the weekends. But for a lot of people alcohol has become a big part of their everyday lives, which is why it's so important for us to consider the impact drinking has on our health.

Alcohol has long been acceptable and ubiquitous but evidence is gathering that alcohol is more damaging than we previously thought. A strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer has been well documented, especially cancers of the upper digestive tract.

The problem is, there is no safe level of consumption when it comes to cancer. So if you choose to drink it's about taking steps to reduce your risk.

The authority on the topic, the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommend no more than two standard drinks a day. They've looked at all the risks associated with alcohol, including cancer, and have come up with some formulas to reduce your overall risk.

It is also recommend those who drink avoid binge drinking (more than four drinks on one occasion) and have at least one or two alcohol-free days each week. So that is not a bottle of wine a night with dinner. If you are going to drink, and it sounds dull but it's important, the old phrase everything in moderation comes into play.

So, here are a few quick tips on how to limit your alcohol consumption:

  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones, like sparkling or plain water.
  • Eat food. My mother always warned me never to drink on an empty stomach. As a teenager and while at University this advice, when followed, has been a lifesaver. So eat some food before and if possible while you drink alcohol. 
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks, for example, try a shandy (beer and lemonade) or a white wine and sparkling water.
  • Choose a low-alcohol beer and/or wine and think about what constitutes a standard drink and how many units are in your drink of choice.
  • Pace yourself. It's not a race or a competition. Sip slowly and enjoy.
  • Offer to be the designated driver when you go out so you drink less, but make sure you stay under the legal limit.
  • Keep track of how much you're drinking and make sure you stay in control, otherwise you can be at risk of harming yourself.

It is all pretty obvious stuff, but a bit of moderation really could save your life.

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