Know your alcohol limits during the festive season

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With the Christmas party season in full swing the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to be mindful of their alcohol intake at this time.

People across Northern Ireland are looking forward to celebrating with family, friends and work colleagues, however, if you choose to drink it’s easy to lose track of how much alcohol you are consuming.

The PHA’s Drugs and Alcohol lead Owen O’Neill said: “Christmas is a great time to relax and meet up with people to celebrate, but it is very easy to overindulge. Excess alcohol can spoil the holiday for not only you but also for your family. We are asking that people set limits for themselves and keep an eye on how many drinks they are having.”

It is recommended that men drink no more than three to four units of alcohol a day, and no more than 21 units over a week. For women, it is recommended that they drink no more than two to three units of alcohol a day, and no more than 14 units over the course of the week. Remember, for each unit you drink over the daily limit, the risk to your health increases.

Binge drinking can have a major impact on health, such as causing damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach. It can also have a major impact on relationships.

“You can’t ‘save up’ your units for a particular day or a party, so if you do choose to drink over the festive period, your consumption should be spread over the week,” said Owen.

“Alcohol can also have an impact on your mental health, and if you are hung over you can feel anxious and low. Some people may feel down over Christmas and drinking can make this worse.”

If you are planning on drinking alcohol over Christmas, here are some tips for managing your drinking:

• Eat before or while drinking and avoid salty snacks, which make you thirsty.

• Be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to.

• Know your limits and stick to them.

• Stay busy – don’t just sit and drink. Dance or have a game of pool if you’re at a pub.

• Try not to confuse large measures of alcohol with standard measures, eg: a glass of wine served at a party or at home may be much larger than the standard 125ml.

• Keep track of your drinks and don’t let people top up your drink until it’s finished.

• Try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. Add plenty of mixer to your drinks to make them last longer.

• Avoid rounds, ‘shouts’ and kitties – drink at your own pace, not someone else’s.

• Drink slowly – take sips, not gulps.

For further information about alcohol limits visit www.knowyourlimits.info

More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info