Whether you see having a glass of wine at the end of a long day as a treat, or just the normal thing to do, it’s surprising how quickly you can rack up more than the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week.
And according to Public Health England (PHE), those aged between 45 and 65 are more likely to exceed the limit than other age groups. In fact, the Health Survey for England, found those aged 45-54 knock back 17 units in a week on average, while the 55-64 age group put away 19.5 units.
PHE and charity Drinkaware’s Drink Free Days campaign encourages people, especially those in middle age, to up their number of drink-free days each week.
“The more you drink, the greater the risk to your health. It’s really that simple,” says Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal. “An increasing number of people, particularly middle-aged drinkers, are drinking in ways that are putting them at risk of serious and potentially life-limiting conditions such as heart disease, liver disease and some types of cancer.”
While Duncan Selbie, chief executive at PHE, says: “It’s also an easy way to pile on the pounds. Setting yourself a target of having more drink-free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to your health.”
So what exactly are the benefits of forgoing a glass of wine or skipping that brandy for at least a couple of nights in a row, every week?
7 health benefits of drinking less in middle age
1. You might sleep better
Many of us think a quick Irish coffee before bed or a soothing glass of red will help us get to sleep, but no. Drinking before bed is actually far more likely to lead to disordered sleeping patterns and interrupted kip. Try a couple of nights off booze and you might find drifting off a little easier.
2. You’re likely to feel more energetic
More sleep means more energy, and waking up without a hangover means starting the day feeling buoyant rather sluggish, nauseous and foggy-headed. You’ll be bouncing around.
3. …and happier as a result
If you’re sleeping better and feeling more energetic, you’re going to be in a better position to do the things that make you happy, and do them well. Also, alcohol is a depressant – without it floating around in your system, you should feel lighter and generally more positive.
4. It could help you lose weight
When downing a pint is equivalent to scoffing a slice of pizza, and a large glass of red amounts to eating a 40g bar of chocolate, you can see how going alcohol-free a few nights a week could help slim your waistline too.
5. You’ll reduce your chances of suffering from heart problems
Heavy drinking can have a major impact on your heart, so reducing your intake means being less at risk of high blood pressure – one of the major risk factors when it comes to having a heart attack or stroke. While some research suggests a glass of red can be good for your heart, overall, excessive alcohol consumption is likely to weaken the heart muscle, making it tougher to pump blood around the body. This is called cardiomyopathy which, according to Drinkaware, “can cause premature death, usually through heart failure.”
6. You’ll distance yourself from liver disease
Your liver will be oh so happy at the prospect of fewer days processing alcohol. Excessive drinking puts a lot of pressure on the organ – which bears the brunt of detoxification in the body – and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and scarring, which can in turn lead to liver cancer.
7. You’ll be helping to cut your chances of developing certain cancers
Including liver cancer, Drinkaware note that alcohol has been “identified as a contributory factor for seven types of cancer.” The rest are bowel, breast, mouth, oesophageal, laryngeal (voice box) and pharyngeal cancer (upper throat). Also, if you’re prone to having a cigarette when drinking, cutting down on your alcohol intake should see a decrease in your smoking (and risk of smoking related cancers) too – it’s win-win.
Download the Drinkaware app (drinkaware.co.uk) to track your alcohol consumption, and receive tips on cutting down.