Christmas and New Year's celebrations may now be a distant memory - or if you enjoyed yourself a little too much, no memory at all. But the sight of a few extra pounds and that feeling of sluggishness that can often follow a period of overindulgence are more than enough to tell you that it's time to get healthy. In this blog article we look at why taking some time away from alcohol is good for you and why you might consider making it a more frequent thing.

The truth about alcohol

We know that drinking to excess is bad for us, yet many of us still get swept up in the festive spirit and consume more alcohol than we should or usually would. NHS guidelines suggest that drinking more than 14 units per week repeatedly - equivalent to six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine - is likely to damage our health.

Among the 60+ conditions associated with excess alcohol consumption are:

- Liver disease

- Heart disease

- Strokes

- Cancer

- Depression

- Brain damage

- Damage to the nervous system

Excessive alcohol consumption is also commonly associated with weight gain and even obesity, as many alcoholic drinks contain a high calorie content. At last count, 9 million Brits were estimated to exceed the recommended weekly allowance, putting themselves at risk of serious health problems and placing additional strain on the health system.

Keep it dry after January

Dry January has become something of a cult thing in recent years. After a Christmas of excess, many of us feel the need for a month of abstinence. But health professionals have also warned that a single month of restraint followed by 11 months of regular drinking is not a genuine solution. Instead, a more consistent and committed approach to spells away from alcohol is advised - and the rewards can be extensive.

Improved cardiovascular health

Sustained heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscles and even lead to an irregular heart beat in some cases. Alcohol is known to also affect blood pressure and the increased likelihood of weight gain may also place strain on the cardiovascular system. Keeping alcohol consumption to under 10 units a week is thought to reduce any negative impacts of alcohol and enable the body to function more effectively.

Improved sleep

Alcohol is thought by many to help sleep because its depressant qualities can cause a feeling of drowsiness. But in actual fact, the chemical imbalance caused by alcohol can reduce the quality of sleep and inhibit the body's internal clock - known as the circadian rhythm. Achieving regular sleep patterns without alcohol consumption will lead to a more restorative night's sleep and, as a result, improved energy levels and cognitive capabilities during the day.

Weight loss – Drinking your calories is not only limited to fizzy soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine can add hundreds or even thousands of calories to your daily intake, so for those looking to shed pounds in the New Year a dry January should be closely followed by a lean February.

Enhanced sex life - Alcohol is one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction. As a sedative, it can cause a lowering of blood pressure and relax blood vessels to the point where gaining and maintaining a firm erection is impossible. If you expect to enjoy the physical side of a relationship beyond the first month of the year, consider keeping alcohol consumption limited to no more than 2-3 units per day.

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