Drinking too much alcohol is harmful to your heart and general health. It increases health risks such as high blood pressure, heart failure, increased levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood, and some cancers. Other serious effects may include heart muscle damage, heart rhythm disturbances and sudden cardiac death. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can also lead to a stroke.

Alcohol may also contribute to weight gain because it is often high in sugar and kilojoules. It also lowers your inhibitions which may make it more challenging to stick to healthy eating when you have been drinking. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, then rather cut down on alcohol.

How much can I drink?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa recommends that if you drink alcohol, then do so in moderation. This means not more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. One drink is equivalent to: 340 ml beer, 120 ml wine, 60 ml sherry or 25 ml spirits

 Are there any benefits of drinking alcohol?

Some research has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol in some populations may have a positive effect on health. For example, it may lead to a small increase in HDL ‘good’ cholesterol or have an anti-clotting effect on blood. However, it’s not advised to start drinking if you don’t already, because there are safer and healthier ways of obtaining these potential benefits, e.g. regular physical activity is an effective way to raise HDL cholesterol and aspirin can help reduce blood clotting. The HSFSA recommends that you should talk to your doctor about lowering your cardiovascular risk.

 Tips to make better choices

  • Ask for drinks to be mixed in a tall glass with lots of ice
  • Use low sugar or sugar-free mixers such as soda water, light or diet sodas, sparkling water
  • Limit the addition of sugary drinks by going half-half with a sugar free option e.g. cranberry juice or lemonade with half soda water
  • Rule of thumb – one drink, one water! Make sure you stay hydrated by alternating between alcohol and water
  • Don’t double up! Choose singles over doubles
  • Choose low calorie options such as whiskey, dry sparkling wine, vodka, tequila, light beer, dry red or white or light wine
  • Spruce up your drink with fresh lime, lemon, orange, berries, cucumber slices or pomegranate seeds