It’s the first of January. You have overeaten, over-indulged and your body is saying “no more hangovers please”. The start of a new year is often a good time to lose the booze and the benefits of going a whole 31 days without even a drop are significant. However, for many dry January can seem daunting or even completely unachievable. We are here to tell you that you can do it and why you really should give it a go!
Drinking too much raises your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – both risk factors for heart disease. Sustained raised blood pressure is one of the most significant causes of heart attacks and strokes. Drinking excessively can also lead to weight gain and increases your risk of diabetes, which in turn elevates your risk of heart disease. Too much alcohol also impairs your judgement, leaving you more susceptible to making poor decisions. In fact, alcohol is linked to over 60 health conditions according to Alcohol Change UK.
NHS guidance is that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week and that this should be spread over a minimum of three days. Binge drinking is defined by Drinkaware as drinking more than 15 units in a 24-hour period. This is the same as 1.5 bottles of wine (at 13%) or 7.5 pints of beer (at 4% or more). This level of binge drinking can cause what is known colloquially as ‘holiday heart syndrome’. This is when your heart beats irregularly. This can cause you to feel breathless, tired and can affect your blood pressure.
Whilst 31 days can seem like a long time, it is worth persevering if you can. According to research by the University of Sussex, those who managed to complete dry January in full are more likely to be drinking less six months after that challenge has finished.
But I thought some alcohol was good for my heart?
There is some evidence that a small amount of red wine can be good for your heart, but this is only the case for a small section of the population – women over 50. It is also only relevant if they are drinking less than one unit of alcohol every day.
At all levels, drinking more than one unit of alcohol a day eradicates the protective effect and there is instead an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
How to do dry January well: a roadmap
1. Tell your friends
If your friends know in advance that you have challenged yourself to do dry January, they are more likely to be supportive and less likely to keep offering you drinks. Also, the act of telling a friend often spurs you on to be accountable and stick to your guns.
2. If you have a ‘wet Wednesday’ don’t throw in the towel
A bad day at work or just the short dark days might find you reaching for a glass of wine. If you do have a drink, don’t tell yourself that you’ve ruined it and you may as well just stop now. Just put it down to one bad day and resolve to start afresh the next day.
3. Save the money
Every time you think you would like to spend some money on alcohol, take that money and put it in a jar. Then at the end of the month treat yourself to something you’ve had your eye on.
4. Go small
These days it can be hard to know how big is big, when it comes to glass size. Why not invest in a measuring cup or pick up some glasses that hold 175 ml (the equivalent of one unit) so you always know where you are.
5. Alcohol free drinks
There are now lots of really good alcohol alternatives, including alcohol free Guinness, Becks and ‘nosecco’ (alcohol free prosecco). All of these can be very helpful, particularly in social situations.
Here at Venturi, our Cardiologists are not in the business of judging people, and we understand the challenges associated with cutting down or even cutting out alcohol all together for a period. If you really feel dry January is more than you can manage, don’t try to go for ‘zero to hero’ overnight but reduce your intake with alcohol free days every week. Your heart will thank you.
Venturi Cardiology offers a range of diagnostic tests and screening packages to suit all hearts. If you have any concerns about your heart or if you simply want to get an accurate idea of your risk of heart disease over the next 5-10 years, why not book in for a consultation?