Regularly drinking too much alcohol can have severe effects on your health. High blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, liver cirrhosis and even cancer are linked to the long-term effects of drinking. Drinking more than your recommended daily units of alcohol significantly increases your risk of developing over sixty diseases and your mental health and social life are also affected.
– safe alcohol levels reduce as we get older
As we get older our bodily processes become less efficient. We break alcohol down more slowly and this leaves us more vulnerable to the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol.
As a result some specialists believe that the recommended daily unit levels for those of us aged over 55 should be reduced to 1 unit for women and 1.5 for men.
– different limits for men and women
The recommended daily units of alcohol are higher for men than for women. But why? There are three main reasons for this.
Weight: Women tend to weigh less than men. This typically means a reduced tissue mass that in turn effects the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. This means that women’s blood alcohol concentration levels stay higher for longer when compared to men’s.
Fat: Women are less able to dilute alcohol within the body due to a higher fat to water ratio compared to men. This is why women tend to have a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood when compared to men, even after drinking exactly the same amount of alcohol.
Metabolism: Women have lower levels of the enzyme that’s required to break down alcohol into its by-products in their livers (alcohol dehydrogenase). This means that women’s bodies take longer to process alcohol than men and will feel the effects of alcohol more than a man of similar weight.
Our body’s metabolism of alcohol is also affected by our genetic make-up. In particular this is related to the efficiency of our alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme.
– legal and safety issues
When asking how much is too much drink, there are also other factors we should consider:
Driving: How much drink is too much when it comes to driving? As we all metabolise alcohol at slightly different rates, the safest answer is to not drink any alcohol before driving. Just stick to the soft drinks.
The UK alcohol limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The limit can also be measured as 35mg of alcohol per 100 ml of breath or as 107mg per 100ml of urine.
Operating heavy machinery: Alcohol can seriously impair your judgment so it’s a clear no when it comes to heavy machinery.
Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, you shouldn’t drink alcohol at all. Drinking during pregnancy can damage your baby, causing birth defects, learning difficulties, miscarriage or stillbirth.
Medication: Alcohol can have a negative impact on any medication you may be taking. Therefore you should always seek you doctor’s advice when drinking on medication.
Under 18: The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) advises that people under eighteen should not drink alcohol. The CMO recommends that children do not touch alcohol until they are fifteen years old, and that even then it should be in an environment supervised by a parent or guardian. Over fifteen year olds shouldn’t drink more than one day per week and should never drink more than the daily adult unit limits. Not drinking at all the healthiest choice for under 18s.
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