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This month is Dry January, when people around the UK stop drinking alcohol for the month and try to address the effects of overindulgence during the festive season. If you have not yet joined in, it is not too late. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of high...

This month is Dry January, when people around the UK stop drinking alcohol for the month and try to address the effects of overindulgence during the festive season.

If you have not yet joined in, it is not too late. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of high blood pressure, some types of cancer, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other long-term conditions.

Whether you are taking part in Dry January or not, Heart Research UK wants to help you manage your drinking habits for a healthier you in 2021.

Understand alcohol units
Alcohol content varies between different types of drink and different brands of similar drinks. Check the labels so you know exactly how many units are in each serving of your chosen tipple. Go online to find easy-to-use unit calculators to help you track your intake over the week and compare drinks.

How much can I safely drink?
For men and women, the maximum recommended alcohol units each week is 14, spread over 3 or more days. If you are pregnant it is recommended that you do not drink alcohol at all. Drinkaware provides assessment tools that you can use to track the amount you are drinking.

Stay on track
Try to keep yourself on track by regularly reminding yourself of the health and financial benefits of cutting down on drinking. Avoid temptation by removing alcohol from your home or hiding it away. Even if you are not seeing friends and family in person, you can connect with people online who are also trying to cut down or quit drinking to provide support and motivation. By telling other people about your intention to control your drinking, you are more likely to stick to it.

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Manage your drinking during the pandemic
Many people have increased the amount of alcohol they consume at home during lockdown and it may sometimes feel that there is little else to do. Instead of drinking, focus on positive activities, such as setting physical activity goals or learning a new skill.

Alternatives to alcohol
Develop your taste for alcohol free alternatives, such as reduced calorie soft drinks and squash, herbal teas or water with slices of lemon, lime, mint leaves and ice. Try making your own mocktails or mix things up with some sparkling water or tonic water as an alternative to alcoholic bubbles and garnish with chunks of fresh fruit to add colour.

Reward yourself for your success
Decide on a reward that will motivate you to achieve your goal and keep reminding yourself about it whenever you are tempted to have a drink. Avoid using alcohol as a reward.

Getting help when needed
If you are consuming more than 14 units a week, take steps to address it. You can get support by visiting nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support.

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