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alcohol health alliance uk

Drinking causes damage you canít see

Posted 17/01/11

Almost half of all North Easterners are putting themselves at greater risk of cancers, heart attack and stroke because they are drinking too much alcohol, too often.

Research reveals that two in five people across the region are drinking at or above the Government’s recommended limits on a daily or almost daily basis, which could be storing up future health problems. The limits are 2-3 units a day, or about two small glasses of wine, for a woman and 3-4 units, or about two pints of regular strength beer or lager, for a man.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, explained: “We know the majority of people across the region understand that drinking alcohol is linked to health conditions such as liver and heart disease.

“However, they may not appreciate that most people who suffer from health problems because of their drinking are not alcoholics or binge drinkers but those who drink every day, or almost every day, over a number of years.

“Many suffer few immediate consequences, but over time it takes its toll. In the North East, too many of us are drinking more than we should on a regular basis. At the same time, rates of death from alcohol related liver disease are increasing and alcohol specific hospital admissions are higher than the national average.”

Low levels of awareness of the recommended limits are a major contributor to this situation.

Colin explained: “Too many people are unaware of what the recommended limits are. For instance a third of North Easterners believe that it’s acceptable for a woman to drink two glasses of wine five nights a week, when in fact, over time this kind of consumption would place someone at a higher risk of a range of cancers, stroke or heart attack.”

Today (Monday, January 17), Balance launches its ‘Drinking causes damage you can’t see’ campaign to raise public awareness of these recommended limits.
The campaign will also highlight the wide range of conditions linked to drinking at or above these limits on a daily or almost daily basis, which include high blood pressure, stroke and cancer of the mouth, throat and breast.

While almost all North Easterners accept that drinking alcohol increases the risk of liver disease and nine in ten people believe it increases the risk of heart disease, the links between alcohol and these other conditions are much less widely acknowledged, but no less dangerous. Scientific evidence reveals that:

Alarmingly, not only does research reveal low levels of awareness of the links between alcohol consumption and cancer and stroke, it reveals that a third of North Easterners believe that drinking doesn’t increase the risk of cancer and one in five say it doesn’t increase the risk of stroke.

“These misperceptions show that we have a major job to do in terms of increasing public understanding of the recommended limits and the consequences of regularly exceeding them,” Colin said.

“We need to encourage people to live healthier, happier lives. A first step towards that is providing information and education so that people can make an informed choice on reducing their consumption.

“North Easterners are concerned about their health. Research shows that two in ten people in the region have recently considered reducing the amount they drink and almost half of these say they would cut their consumption to improve their health. Therefore I’m certain that once armed with the facts, more people will begin considering reducing their intake.”

Colin added that key to reducing consumption was tracking how much alcohol individuals drink.

“It’s easier to stay within the limits when you keep track of how much you are drinking,” he added.

“People are often surprised to find out how much they are drinking on a daily or almost daily basis as it is fairly common for us to underestimate how much we consume. Keeping a drinks diary is a perfect way to take stock and is a first step towards living a healthier life.”

The campaign, which will run between January 17 and February 28, will encourage North Easterners to call 0191 261 3803 or visit to find out more, download a drinks diary and receive an information booklet.
Balance teams will be visiting towns and cities across the region during February to provide advice and hand out information. North Easterners will come face to face with a life sized x ray of a human body and shown the places where alcohol-related diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, dementia, as well as mouth, throat and liver cancer could strike.

Mark Watson from NHS South of Tyne and Wear, which covers Gateshead PCT, said: “It is important to be aware that there is a high price to pay for excessive alcohol consumption.

“Regularly exceeding the recommended daily alcohol limit increases the risk of a range of long-term health conditions, such as breast cancer and liver disease, and in the North East we have much higher admissions to hospital for alcohol-related diseases than in other parts of the country.

“If you are worried about your drinking or feel that you need to cut down or give up alcohol, you can call 0800 328 6728 for advice, support and information. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

A regional advertising campaign will run across TV, radio and press as well as online and on public transport.