‘I don’t get really drunk, I don’t misbehave, I don’t drink during the day.’ So said presenter Adrian Chiles this summer, in his BBC Two documentary Drinkers Like Me, which revealed his ‘mundane and harmless’ drinking habits were anything but. Because studies have found that drinkers like him, the social, midlife kind – ‘the constant drinkers and the toppers up,’ as Chiles described them – are part of an increasing problem.
A YouGov survey recently found that wine o’clock mothers are among the UK’s biggest midlife drinkers, with 28 per cent of mums over 45 drinking more than their 20-something children. And those over 65 are the most likely to drink on five consecutive nights. ‘Many of us enjoy a drink, but whether it’s a few in the pub after work, or regular wine with our dinner, it’s all too easy to let our drinking creep up on us,’ says Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, who says the risks of regular midlife drinking include liver disease, heart disease and certain cancers. But to muddy the waters, a study recently found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease than teetotallers.
‘Moderate drinking thins the blood, which is where these studies come from,’ says Maureen Talbot, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. ‘However, we still avoid prescribing drinking in the way we would exercise, which is far more heart-protective. And remember, drinking a lot hardens the arteries and raises blood pressure. If you do drink, have at least two alcohol-free days a week.’ Nutritional therapist Amelia Freer agrees with this drinking maths, and recommends two empty-glass days a week. ‘I enjoy a glass of red wine, but I always tell clients to drink moderately with meals, mainly red wine, spread out evenly over the week,’ she adds. At the end of the documentary, Chiles – who has cut back on drinking since the show – said the advice to drink responsibly is ‘the world’s most boring phase’.
The NHS currently advises men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week. Download it for free on Itunes.
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