Alcohol and Health

If you regularly drink more than the recommended daily limits you risk developing alcohol related health problems. There’s no guaranteed safe level of drinking, but drinking less than the recommended daily limits lowers the risk of harming your health.

It’s not just people who get drunk or binge drink who are at risk. People who regularly drink more than the NHS recommends may not see any harmful effects at first but the damage done by drinking too much alcohol emerges over a number of years by which time serious health problems may have developed.

Alcohol related health problems include liver disease, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attack.

The effects of alcohol on your health depends on how much you drink; the more you drink, the greater the health risks.

  •  Men should not regularly drink more than 3 – 4 units a day
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2 – 3 units a day

Even drinking less than the above amounts isn’t advisable in certain circumstances. Drinking any alcohol can cause problems if you’re going to drive, operate machinery, swim or undertake physical activity.

Pregnant women or those trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. When you drink, alcohol reaches your baby through the placenta. Too much exposure to alcohol can affect a baby’s development.

If you’re pregnant and choose to drink, to minimise risk to the baby, do not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week, and do not get drunk.

In our New Patient Health Questionnaire (see Registration) there are some lifestyle questions which include a section on how much alcohol you drink. The information you give here helps us understand your circumstances and how we can help maintain and improve your health.  The metrics we use to measure alcohol consumption are shown in the table below:

Score 0 1 2 3 4
How often do you drink alcohol? Never Monthly or less 2 – 4 times a month 2 – 3 times a week 4 + times a week
How many standard alcoholic drinks do you have on a typical day? 1 – 2 3 – 4 5 – 6 7 – 8 10 +
How often do you have 6 or more drinks on one occasion? Never Less than monthly Monthly Weekly Daily / almost daily

Each question is scored as above and then the scores are added together. A score of 5 or above indicates increased or higher risk drinking and which would lead us to take further steps to try and support you in maintaining and improving your health.

If you would like to read further information about alcohol and how it can affect health you can visit the following links: Alcohol Risk Guidelines or NHS UK Live Well / Alcohol.