Alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and early death in the UK, after smoking and obesity.
Heavy drinking is linked to serious health problems and diseases including bowel cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and liver disease.
Alcohol abuse also affects your family and friends, and can result in foetal alcohol syndrome, where abnormalities occur in the unborn child.
Many of us enjoy a glass of wine in the evening or a cold beer on a hot day. But keep in mind the recommended daily and weekly alcohol limits, which are the same for men and women:
NB current advice from the Department of Health is that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
The UK's Chief Medical Officers issued these alcohol guidelines in January 2016, to reflect the latest evidence of the link between alcohol and damage to health. Check out this excellent at-a-glance summary of the guidelines from Drinkaware.co.uk
The more you drink, the more your body gets used to it. Taking a regular break from alcohol gives your body a chance to avoid building up a tolerance. And it helps prevent you from becoming dependent on that daily drink.
The simplest way is to avoid alcohol during the working week, enjoying a drink or two at the weekend.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2016 there were 7,327 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK. Alcohol-specific death rates in the UK have stabilised in recent years, and in 2016 were highest among men and women aged 55-64. According to Alcohol Concern, alcohol abuse costs the NHS £3.5bn per year; equal to £120 for every tax payer.
If you're a woman aged 55 or over, small amounts of alcohol can protect against a heart attack.
Red wine, in particular, is rich in antioxidants that can have heart-healthy benefits.
Previous research had suggested that these health benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol applied to men as well as women. However latest research indicates this only applies to women aged 55 and over.
BUT - the health risks of drinking alcohol are serious and should never be overlooked. Please drink sensibly! Studies have found that, compared to not drinking, alcohol consumption leads to a 51% increased risk of developing cancers such as cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, breast, ovary and head and neck. (Source: Global study published in the Lancet Sept 2015, lead author Dr Andrew Smyth of McMaster University in Canada)
And in August 2018 the authors of the Global Burden of Diseases study suggested that there is no healthy level of alcohol consumption, and recommended to governments worldwide that they advise people to abstain completely.
Alcohol is high in calories, and you can easily pile on the pounds if you drink regularly. The fashion for large wine glasses doesn't help: a 250ml glass contains as many calories as a bar of chocolate. And a pint of lager contains the same calories as a slice of pizza.
According to DrinkAware, the average wine drinker puts on half a stone of fat a year! So watch out for what your favourite tipple might be costing you in calories - especially if you're trying to lose weight.
For the chronic drinker, alcohol abuse suppresses the appetite so much that it can lead to malnutrition.
At social occasions there are several good ways to manage your drinking, from eating before you drink, to adding plenty of mixers to make your drinks last longer.
One simple rule of thumb is to alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water or a soft drink. With the wide range of non-alcoholic drinks available, cutting back on alcohol has never been easier - or tastier.
Don't forget! Alcohol stays in your body for several hours, so after a night out you could be over the limit when you drive to work the next day.
A good rule of thumb is to allow 3 hours for each large glass of wine or pint of strong beer to leave your bloodstream.
If you're worried about your drinking, or simply wish to know more, you'll find lots of help and advice at the charity DrinkAware.
For the over 50s, this helpful article from the charity Addaction explains how ageism can prevent people getting the treatment and support they need for problem drinking. Addaction is one of the UK's leading drug, alcohol and mental health charities, and offers advice and support - including a free webchat service.
This article from the American National Council on Seniors' Drug & Alcohol Rehab shows how regular drinking can slip into alcohol abuse, and the most common signs of alcohol addiction.
And at your Mary How Trust health screening, your nurse will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your alcohol intake.