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Health Matters - Drink Responsibly

ian hulme
Health Matters - Drink Responsibly
20 December 2017

Dr Ian Hulme, GP with Meadowside Medical Centre, Congleton and clinical lead on substance misuse for NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG

Many of us enjoy alcohol and there’s nothing wrong with that. But drinking too much can damage your health. In fact twice as many people now die from liver disease than in 1991, and liver disease is the fifth biggest killer in England and Wales after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease.

Everybody changes over time – and your drinking patterns probably have too. Once, you might have drunk alcohol while out on the town. Now, because of the demands of a career and maybe a family, you could be spending more time at home. But even though you’re going out less – you still may be drinking over the recommended number of units.

If your relationship with alcohol is causing you concern you may want to find out more about:

  • Units and limits
  • Processing alcohol
  • Sleep, driving and hangovers
  • Effects on the body and mind
  • How to start cutting down
  • How you know when you’ve got a drink problem.

If this is the case you can find out more information on the Drinkaware website at drinkaware.co.uk.

There are numerous benefits that drinking less can bring, such as weight loss, improved sleep and mental wellbeing, and the liver is a remarkably durable organ that can return to normal in as little as four hours – as long as no lasting damage has been done.

These three simple steps can be taken to get our livers back into shape quickly:

  • Keep off alcohol for two or three days in a row – although I appreciate that’s difficult with the festive period approaching
  • Take more exercise and stay fit
  • Cut down on sugar and fat

Not drinking for two to three days’ running gives the liver time to recover, and eating well while exercising regularly prevents people getting overweight and developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Cutting down on daily food treats and not overloading on sugary drinks will help to improve liver function. On top of that, I would urge people who are feeling constantly tired to visit their GP and request a liver function test, especially if they have been pushing the boundaries regularly with alcohol or fatty foods.

And as jaundice can indicate liver damage, anyone noticing yellowing of their eyes or skin should visit their GP straightaway.

Prevention is better than cure, for patients and the NHS. That’s why I’m calling on people to look after their livers and stay healthy for a long and happy life.