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Avoid alcohol

Alcohol can cause high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. It can contribute to being an unhealthy weight and uncontrolled diabetes. All these things increase your risk of stroke.

High blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition. Your heart beats fast and out of rhythm. Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing AF. If you have AF, alcohol causes more frequent episodes of AF.

Unhealthy weight. Drinking alcohol makes it hard to get to and maintain a healthy weight.

Uncontrolled diabetes. Drinking alcohol makes it hard to control blood sugar levels.

Advice for healthy people

The Australian Guidelines say:
To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should have no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

The Guidelines are for healthy people. Talk with your doctor about what is safe for you.

Standard drinks

The Australian guidelines are based on a ‘standard drink’. Not many people know how to measure a standard drink. The size of a standard drink depends on what you are drinking:

Spirits: 30 ml of spirits with 40% alcohol by volume is 1 standard drink.

Beer: A 285 ml glass of full-strength beer is 1.1 standard drinks. A 285 ml glass of low-strength beer is 0.6 standard drinks. 285 ml is a small glass of beer.

Wine: 100 ml of wine or champagne is about 1 standard drink. The average glass in restaurants and pubs is 150 ml.

The label states how many standard drinks are in the bottle.

What is a standard drink, and what does a standard drink look like? 1.0 standard drinks = 375 mL bottle of mid strength beer (3.5%), or 100 mL of red wine (13%), or 30 mL nip of spirits (40%)

Think carefully about how many standard drinks are in the glasses you have at home or when you are out. You need to know exactly how many standard drinks you are having to know if you are drinking within the guidelines.

Advice for people who have had a stroke

If you have had a stroke, alcohol can increase your risk of having another one. It can increase the impact of changes to speech, thinking, vision and balance caused by your stroke. Alcohol can interfere with some medicines and can be harmful if you are taking warfarin.

For information, read our fact sheet on alcohol after stroke.

Change your drinking

While drinking, keep count of how many standard drinks you have. Make a note in a book or on your phone if you need to.

In social situations:

  • Drink slowly and make every second drink a non-alcoholic drink. Choose sparkling water rather than a sugary drink.
  • Drink low-alcohol drinks such as light beer or one of the many non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits now available.
  • Say “I’m not drinking” or “I’ve had one already thanks”. You don’t need to explain or justify your decision not to drink alcohol.

For more strategies and tips on drinking less, visit hellosundaymorning

Get help

Talk with your doctor about treatment and counselling services.

Counselling Online is a free and confidential service that provides support to people affected by alcohol or drug use. Visit counsellingonline.org.au

StrokeLine’s health professionals provide information, advice, support and referral. StrokeLine’s practical and confidential advice will help you manage your health better and live well.