Healthspan December 19, 2017

January is a popular month for ditching the booze either for charity or in search of its health benefits, or both. But what exactly is Dry January and what are its proposed benefits?

What is dry January?

Alcohol Concern started the campaign back in 2012 to encourage people to stop drinking during the month of January and the phenomenon appears to have increased in popularity year on year, especially since the involvement of Public Health England. A YouGov survey actually revealed 16% of the UK adult population committed to dry January in 2016.

What are the benefits of dry January?

1. You’ll save money
There’s no doubting the amount of money Brits spend on booze is extortionate. And how many times has that very thing – booze – been just the encouragement you needed to buy a pricey round of shots for everyone joining you on your night out? Spending money on booze = spending money on more booze and that doesn’t even include the fast food that awaits you at the end of the night.

2. It could reduce your blood pressure
Drinking too much alcohol can have serious consequences and increases the likelihood of high blood pressure, one of the major risk factors for heart attacks and stroke. It can also weaken your heart muscle so it's unable to pump enough blood around your body, and can affect your heart rhythm, a condition known as arrhythmia.

3. You could lose weight
Empty calories are the stuff of nightmares and alcohol has plenty of them. And not only does fast food hit your wallet hard when it comes to drinking it’s also a nightmare for your waistline. Getting into bad habits is easy to do but cutting out the booze (and then learning to manage the amount you drink post dry January) is a good way to get rid of them. Need proof? Research by the University of Sussex on dry January statistics last year found that 72 per cent of people who completed Dry January drank less in the six months afterwards. When it comes to fast food we all enjoy a takeaway once in a while but too high an intake in alcohol can lead us to having too many, especially since a hangover often causes cravings for foods high in salt. Learning how to control your alcohol intake so every night out doesn’t mean waking up with a sore head and an empty kebab box next to your bed is perhaps something we should all be considering as a 2018 new year’s resolution.

4. Your liver will thank you
If there’s one thing that suffers most with a regular intake of alcohol, it’s your liver. Over time drinking alcohol will lead to the liver becoming fatty, inflamed and in the worst case scarred. But Dry January shouldn’t be a detox month to prepare you for a boozy February. Liver disease is appearing in young people where it used to only be associated with those of an older age and it’s a lot to do with Britain’s status as one of the worst countries in the world for binge drinking. A great tip is to get into dry January non-alcoholic drinks like tonic water with fresh lime and lemon slices – this way you won’t be empty-handed when you sit down to watch the TV without your daily glass (or two!) of wine.

5. You can say goodbye to hangovers
We’ve all been there. A Sunday family roast is not quite the same with a splitting headache and an upset stomach. If it weren’t for those extra couple of drinks you’d be tucking in to your roast chicken with enthusiasm but alas, no one has the best judgement when under the influence of alcohol. Just think of what you’ll be able to accomplish now that you can wake up at the same time on weekend days as you do on a work day, too. It’s also a well-known fact that a regular sleeping pattern is good for your health and wellbeing, so say goodbye to tired Monday mornings and say hello to a refreshed new you that’s ready for action.

Is dry January bad for you?

Dry January certainly isn’t bad for you but – as the British Liver Trust suggests – you shouldn’t be having a dry month and then falling back into bad habits. Of course, drinking alcohol within the recommended units per week is a different story compared with binge drinking – a common problem that many people often don’t even realise they have. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Alcohol Concern has a free app that lets you keep track of whether you drank each day to show you just how far you've come. It also tells you how much money you've saved.

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