Men’s Health Week 2018: Drink less, feel better

Men’s Health Week 2018: Drink less, feel better

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Men’s Health Week 2018 takes place from 11th to 17th June and we are delighted to support this important initiative, which aims to:

  • Heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.
  • Support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyle choices / activities.
  • Encourage the early detection and treatment of health difficulties in males.

We are proud to join the call to ask men one simple question: What’s your small step to improve your health and wellbeing going to be? There are many positive steps you could take but we are encouraging men to reduce their weekly alcohol consumption. Throughout Men’s Health Week, we will be empowering men across the country to take small steps to drink less alcohol by highlighting some of the different impacts alcohol can have and the positive changes you can make.

Alcohol and You

Through our workshops in communities across the country, we have the chance to speak directly with people who would like to better understand their drinking and how this could be affecting their health and wellbeing and the people around them. There are a lot of misconceptions about alcohol so this gives us an opportunity to correct any false information. Here are some of the most common things we hear from people and an explainer as to why they just aren't true:

  • "A drink before bed will help me sleep."
    We hear this often but it's just not true. Even just a few drinks can interfere with the normal sleep process. This affects the quality of sleep leaving you with less energy than normal when you wake up in the morning.
    Tip: If you find yourself reaching for a drink before bed, do something else to unwind like taking a short walk or reading a book.

  • "There's no history of heart disease in my family so I'm safe."
    Heart disease is the most common cause of death in Ireland. As you drink, your blood pressure rises and your heart rate increases. Regularly drinking over the low-risk guidelines can significantly increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. 
    Tip: Don't wait for something to happen, get checked - find out when the Irish Heart Foundation Mobile Health Unit is in your area.

  • "I'll save up my guidelines allowance for the weekend."
    Binge drinking is when you drink six or more standard drinks during one occasion, for example three pints of beer. Men are more likely binge drink than women, with the 2017 Healthy Ireland Survey showing that 3 in 5 men binge drink on a typical ocassion. As well as the risks to your short- and long-term health, drinking at this level can means you are more vulnerable and more likely to experience harms such as violence, accidents and injuries.
    Tip: Have at least two consecutive days in the week where you don't drink alcohol to give your body a break.
  • "I have two pints and then drive home all the time and it doesn't affect me."
    This is wrong and thankfully, you have not yet caused any harm to yourself or other road users. Any amount of alcohol will affect your ability to drive safely - this is a scientific fact. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgement, making it more difficult to identify danger and risk. 
    Tip: Never EVER drink and drive and never be a passenger in a car where the driver has consumed alcohol, even if they are a trusted friend or family member.
  • "I know someone who never drank in their life and they still got cancer."
    While other factors can contribute to the development of health conditions, including cancer, alcohol is nonetheless a risk factor and most importantly, it is one you can control. 1 in 3 men in Ireland will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and research shows alcohol is linked to the development of at least seven types of cancer. This includes bowel cancer, which is the second-most common cancer diagnosed in Ireland.
    Tip: Register for BowelScreen, a free home test for men and women aged 60 to 69 years.
  • "Even though I'm working out more than ever, I'm still not seeing any changes."
    Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, which means the more you drink, the more calories you consume. One gram of alcohol contains seven calories, almost the same as pure fat (nine calories). This doesn’t include mixers such as soft drinks, which will increase the calorie and sugar content of the drink.
    Tip: Find out more about alcohol, calories and sugar

Think about your drinking

Think honestly about your drinking habits and ask yourself some questions. How much do you drink in a regular week or month? Maybe you have noticed you are drinking alone more often than before or you are finding more reasons to drink alcohol. Has your drinking started to affect your work? Perhaps you haven’t worked out as much lately due to alcohol. Now ask yourself if you could drink less. You are not alone – 1 in 3 men in Ireland would like to drink less alcohol. The good news is that this is easier than you might think and small changes to how you drink can make a big difference.

Order our free Get the Facts information pack

Know the guidelines

Are you drinking within the HSE low-risk guidelines for alcohol consumption? Less than 3% of Irish adults can correctly identify the guidelines but they are important to know and can help you to see how much you are really drinking over the week. Remember, these are guidelines - not a target.

  • 17 standard drinks (170g pure alcohol) spread out over the week for men, with at least two alcohol-free days

Common examples of one standard drink are a half pint of lager/stout/cider, a 100ml glass of wine or pub measure (35.5ml) of spirits. This means a man’s weekly guidelines is roughly eight pints of beer, which is less than many people think. On average, it takes one hour for the body to process one standard drink and there's no quick fix - only time.

Try our Drinks Calculator to see if you are drinking within the guidelines

Make small changes to drink less

Stuck for ideas? Here are some small steps you could take to drink less alcohol. Remember, everyone’s motivation for drinking less is different so it’s important to choose small steps that work for you.

  • Stay out of rounds – you may end up drinking far more than you intended as you are more likely to drink at the pace of the fastest person in the group.
  • Set yourself a limit on a night out. If you usually go for an after-work drink on a Friday, why not set a limit on the number of drinks you will have in advance? Keeping this number in mind will help you to keep track and stick to it.
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table to make this easier.
  • Always use a standard drink measure: never free-pour spirits or wine. Order one for free
  • Never top up your wine glass – always finish one glass before refilling. Topping up your glass makes it harder to track how much you’re drinking.
  • Take advantage of the increasingly available lower or no-alcohol beer or wine and swap out your usual drink.
  • Break your habits at home. This can seem like a nice way to unwind after a long day but it can often result in drinking more than usual. If your normal night in includes a drink in front of the TV, consider doing something different like going for a walk or try not to keep alcohol in the house.
  • If you would like to stop drinking completely, we have some advice to help.

Find out more about Men's Health Week