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Your health and alcohol - 5 facts every man should Know

Find out if your drinking puts you at greater risk than you think.

Published: 11 December 2019

You may not realise that alcohol could be impacting on your physical and mental health. If you drink most days or regularly have 3 or more pints in a session, the chances are you may be at greater risk than you think.

Read five facts every man should know to ensure a low risk relationship with alcohol.

Fact 1: Alcohol related behaviours and illnesses can be hard to spot

Drinking behaviours and associated problems tend to increase over time (and with increased use). Regularly drinking more than the weekly recommended limits can lead to many disease and injury conditions, in fact, up to 60 are directly alcohol related. Drinking is a factor in conditions like cancer, high blood pressure, strokes, insomnia, diabetes, anaemia, self-harm, depression, dementia, infectious diseases and nerve damage.

We might think that alcohol isn’t affecting our health ... but is this true? Or is it just that we don’t see the early warning signs or blame something else?

Health tip:  Take the test to assess your drinking

Fact 2: Most heavy drinkers have a fatty liver- this can lead to liver disease - a silent killer!

Most of us know that alcohol damages our livers. But did you know that it’s hard to spot until it’s too late? The first 2 stages of alcohol-related liver disease – fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis - don’t normally cause any symptoms. By the time you reach stage 3 – cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) – there’s no cure. The damage is permanent and may lead to fatal liver failure.

Health tip: If you drink a lot, ask your GP about getting a liver function blood test. Your doctor may also advise a scan, as the blood test can’t always pick up the signs of damage. Read more information about the effect alcohol has on your liver.

Fact 3: Alcohol is a depressant drug

You may be fooled into thinking otherwise, because a couple of drinks can give us a buzz and ‘loosen us up’.  But alcohol’s depressant effects on brain chemistry go beyond the low mood that can happen the morning after - alcohol increases the risk of depression and anxiety and can make symptoms much more severe if you’re already depressed.

Health tip: If you’re feeling low, alcohol could be the problem. With support you might like to consider reducing your alcohol intake or cutting it out. You might like to try to cut out alcohol for 5 weeks and see if things improve. If this doesn’t help, talk to your GP about getting some help for your symptoms. Learn more about the impact alcohol may have on your mental health.

Fact 4:  Regular heavy drinking can interfere with your relationships

Spending more time drinking, becoming irritable if you can’t drink when you want to, thinking and planning more about drinking are all signs that your relationship with alcohol, much like a love affair, is deepening. This can result in less and less time with family. People who care about you may end up feeling distanced and rejected. You – or your spouse or partner – doesn’t have to be dependent on alcohol for your drinking to affect your child. Regular, harmful drinking can also cause problems.  

Health tip: Taking care of your drinking pattern now means that you will stop drinking problems getting worse and avoid your loved ones being affected. 

Fact 5:  Your health is your wealth

Have you ever considered the health and psychological benefits of cutting down, cutting out, or stopping drinking? Three people die each day in Ireland from alcohol related harms both from accidents and injuries and from long term chronic illnesses due to drinking too much, too often for too long.Many people do not recognise the signs of problem drinking and assume their own drinking is normal until they are faced with bad news. 

Health tip: Regularly monitoring your pattern of drinking can reduce harm. Take the test to assess your drinking.

Ask yourself: Could alcohol be causing my problems or making them worse? If you’re worried, get yourself checked by your GP or contact the HSE Alcohol Helpline 1800 459 459 to ask.