A big part of growing up is trying new things, first date, first car and first drink…. We want you to know the facts.

Drinking alcohol can have loads of different effects on your body as a whole, but also more specifically on your heart. It can cause high blood pressure, abnormal rhythms, it can even damage your heart muscle and it can cause other diseases such as stroke, liver problems or even some cancers. Drinking alcohol puts a strain on your body, it may not feel like it at the time but your body is having to work extra hard to deal with the alcohol.

Alcohol is also high in calories, have you ever noticed it is never mentioned as part of a healthy diet. That’s because it is not, it can lead to weight gain but also lowers your inhibitions which means it becomes harder to stick to healthy food when you have been drinking. “A Saturday night is not complete without a kebab” is often heard in pubs and clubs. A big part of losing weight is simply cutting out alcohol, you will notice a big difference.

How much can I drink then?

The government guidelines are really simple:

  • Men and women should not drink more than 14 unites of alcohol each week.
  • You should have alcohol free days every week.

These guidelines point to a balance, not drinking everyday but also not “binge” drinking all in one day. The unites per week are not stored in a big bank for you to withdraw all at once, binge drinking can have serious implications with your health and is to be avoided.

How much is one unit then?

A unit is a measure, the number of units in a drink depends on the size and the strength of the drink (ABV). The ABV (alcohol by volume) figure is a percentage which is displayed on any bottle or can of an alcoholic drink.

A single measure in most Northern Irish pubs (35mls) of spirits (40%) is actually larger than one unit.

A glass (50ml) of liqueur, sherry or other fortified wine (20%) is one unit of alcohol

Half a pint (300mls) of normal strength (4%) cider, lager or beer contains 1.1 unites.

A standard (175ml) glass of wine (13%) would be 2.3 units.

With all this be aware that a lot of wine, beer, cider or lager are stronger than the percentages shown and often are served in larger quantities so the units will be higher.

What about my heart?

Once you have recovered from any surgery then it is ok for most people with a heart condition to drink a moderate amount of alcohol. However, depending on your condition it may be advised for you to avoid drinking alcohol. Check with your doctor for advice on what is safe for you to drink and how much.

Be careful with your medication, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about what is safe to drink and how much, depending on your medication.

If you are taking sleeping tablets or painkillers, remember that alcohol will have a more powerful effect. Everyone should avoid drinking too much alcohol but it is particularly important to be careful if you are taking anticoagulant medication like warfarin.

With Alcohol follow these steps:

  1. Speak to your doctor about what is safe, or how much
  2. Check your drinks and record your units
  3. Keep alcohol free days