Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 16th March 2024

St Patrick’s Day: How To Drink Less

Binge Drinking and Holiday Heart Syndrome
Is there a deeper meaning to St. Patrick's Day, one beyond just drinking?

As Sunday 17th March approaches, reflecting on the origins and impact of St Patrick’s Day is crucial to avoid holiday heart syndrome associated excessive binge drinking.

St. Patrick's Day Origins

St. Patrick's Day, initially a religious commemoration of St. Patrick's death in the fifth century and his role in introducing Christianity to Ireland. Historically observed as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years, it took place annually on March 17, coinciding with Lent. Irish families traditionally attended church in the morning, followed by festivities in the afternoon, including the indulgence in meat and the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage. (

St. Patrick's Day now stands as a secular celebration honouring Irish heritage. Despite the cultural pride associated with drinking, particularly in the Irish diaspora in the United States, it is crucial to recognise the holiday's original emphasis on celebrating Irish culture through events, parades, music, and family gatherings. (Britannica)

Binge Drinking: The third most popular drinking day of the year

Binge drinking, unfortunately, has become synonymous with St. Patrick's Day. The surge in alcohol consumption, particularly the iconic Irish stout Guinness, brings forth not only a momentary celebration but also severe health risks. Incidents of alcohol-related accidents and injuries rise significantly during this time, prompting authorities and health experts to emphasise responsible drinking.

Worldwide, binge drinking is a major public health problem. The popularised health risks associated with binge drinking include physical injury and motor vehicle crashes; less attention has been given to the negative effects on the cardiovascular system… Binge drinking is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults.(Piano MR, Mazzuco A, Kang M, Phillips SA.)

On St. Patrick's Day, Guinness enjoys global popularity with people from 150 countries indulging in the iconic Irish stout. In a typical non-pandemic year, a staggering 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed worldwide on this festive day, marking an 819% increase compared to regular consumption. The day sees a notable surge in overall beer sales, surpassing a 150% increase, making St. Patrick's Day the third most popular drinking day of the year, according to a 2018 report by WalletHub. (Thrillist)

Alcohol, friend or foe?

Honesty about alcohol intake can be rare. Many, even to themselves, share only a partial truth with their GP. Society's deep connection to alcohol can make suggesting not to drink or cutting down surprising to family, friends and colleagues, especially on St Patrick’s Day.

In the UK, alcohol misuse is a major public health concern, with a staggering “estimated 10 million people in England regularly exceed the Chief Medical Officers' low-risk drinking guidelines, including 1.7 million who drink at higher risk and around 600,000 who are dependent on alcohol.” (UK Parliament Committees)

Alcohol misuse poses a major threat to ages 15-49 (ranking fifth across all age groups), persisting despite a 16% drop in overall consumption since 2004. Affordability has increased by 74% since 1987 underscores the urgent need to address this pervasive issue. (Alcohol Change UK)

Navigating Sobriety & Social Challenges

Limiting alcohol intake on drinking days can lead to improved sleep and mindfulness about drinking habits.

What if my work and social life are too busy?

Balancing alcohol reduction with after-work and social commitments can be tough.

For inspiration, consider Alice Ferris, a fundraising consultant with a busy schedule. Instead of abstaining for a month, she integrated a drinking app, scheduling three to four dry days per week to align with her commitments. On drinking days, she limited herself to one cocktail or glass of wine, leading to better sleep and increased mindfulness about her drinking habits on dry days. This flexible approach inspired her to continue with two regular dry days a week after the challenge finished. (Washington Post)

Can I maintain friendships if I'm sober?

Friendships and sobriety can coexist. Lauren Booker, a sobriety advocate with eight years’ of experience, suggests open communication and trying alternative activities to show that a fulfilling social life is possible without alcohol. She challenges the belief that alcohol enhances friendships and encourages building deeper, more authentic connections beyond sharing a bottle. (Alcohol Change UK)

St Patrick’s Day Drinking & Heart Health Awareness

The festive season prompts reflection on the delicate balance between celebration and heart health, recognising the potential cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption while emphasising the importance of avoiding excess during holiday festivities.

Excessive alcohol consumption during holidays can lead to "Holiday Heart Syndrome," causing heart arrhythmias. The associated risks include hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications.

What does the research say?

Binge drinking and heart health

Binge drinking not only jeopardises road safety but also poses severe health risks. Apart from the immediate consequences such as physical injury and motor vehicle crashes, binge drinking is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men or four or more drinks on an occasion for women. Most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol. (CDC)

What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

"Holiday Heart Syndrome" refers to heart arrhythmias, particularly atrial fibrillation, triggered by binge drinking during holiday periods. It's important to note a 15% increased risk of heart attacks during these seasonal dates. Your heart attack risk can peak during the holidays. The holidays are a time for excess, and that’s not so good for your heart. Whether at parties or visiting with family, opportunities that test your resolve around food and alcohol are plentiful. (Gigen Mammoser)

One observational study that tracked people over an average of 14 years found that even a single drink per day — a glass of wine, a beer, or a shot of whiskey, gin, or other spirits — was linked to a 16% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (afib) compared with not drinking at all. (Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H, Harvard Health)

Binge drinking and atherosclerosis

Champagne's effervescence is delightful, but the effervescence of arterial plaque is not. Excessive alcohol consumption, over time, has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, a silent intruder that narrows and hardens arteries.

Regular physical activity is crucial for heart health, preventing disease and managing risk factors. Despite its benefits for mental well-being, a substantial number globally fall below recommended activity levels, elevating health risks. (World Health Organisation)

Cardiovascular diseases are a significant cause of disability and mortality in the elderly. Age, combined with factors such as obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension, heightens vulnerability. (Ciumărnean L, Milaciu MV, Negrean V, Orășan OH, Vesa SC, Sălăgean O, Iluţ S, Vlaicu SI.)

Cardiologists recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, managing cholesterol and inherited risks, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, prioritising sleep, and managing stress for optimal heart health. (The Guardian)

Ageing leads to poor circulation as blood pressure receptors become less sensitive, impeding blood flow regulation, capillary walls thicken, arteries stiffen, and the blood undergoes changes such as reduced total water volume and slower replacement of red blood cells. “Improve circulation in feet and legs by elevating them. Raising your legs above the level of the heart can take pressure off your veins, reduce swelling and improve blood flow back to the heart.” (Dr. Rob Hicks)

Importance of Physical Activity and Sleep

Physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health, preventing disease, and managing risk factors. Cardiovascular diseases are a significant cause of disability and mortality in the elderly, emphasising the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, a Mediterranean-style diet, managing cholesterol, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, prioritising sleep, and managing stress are recommended by cardiologists for optimal heart health.

A holistic approach to health involves understanding the intricate connection between sleep and overall well-being. Sleep is a highly active process crucial for digestion, cell repair, and growth. Insufficient sleep is linked to chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and reduced life expectancy.

Understanding Sleep

The brain's active nature during sleep is crucial for overall health, through digestion, cell repair and growth. Sleep is a “highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored... characterised by changes in brain wave activity, breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and other physiological functions.” (Harvard Health)

There is a strong link between insufficient sleep and chronic diseases. Neglecting sleep for a non-stop lifestyle has short term consequences such as impaired judgement and mood swings, while also posing long-term risks such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and reduced life expectancy. (Harvard Health)

“Adults who get 7-8 hours sleep a day have lower mortality rates, and tend to be healthier, than those who have more or less of this amount. You may also have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Those who have fewer than 4 hours or more than 8 hours a day are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, dementia and heart disease.” (Imperial College London)

The Sleep-Alcohol Connection

Alcohol disrupts quality sleep, contributing to fatigue and stress hormone elevation, causing nighttime awakenings. (Harvard Health) Alcohol contributes to insomnia, a common condition affecting one in three people in the UK. (NHS)

Reducing alcohol intake significantly enhances sleep hygiene, structure, REM sleep, and reduces fragmentation and sleep disorders. It establishes a consistent sleep routine, promoting a stable pattern and an optimal sleep environment by eliminating disturbances. (Irish LA, Kline CE, Gunn HE, Buysse DJ, Hall MH.) A break from alcohol may also alleviate sleep disorders associated with chronic use, like sleep apnoea. (Sleep Foundation)

Recognising sleep disturbance as a sign of alcohol abuse or dependence is crucial for timely intervention and tailored treatment. (Stein MD, Friedmann PD.)

A Measured Approach to Drinking Less
As recommended by The Mobility Furniture Company

To reduce alcohol consumption, buy your own drinks, alternate with water, choose non-alcoholic options, opt for smaller servings, and set a drink limit. Seek guidance from your GP or organisations like Alcohol Change UK if concerned. (British Heart Foundation)

The NHS recommends both men and women to limit their weekly alcohol intake to 14 units. A unit is approximately 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, equivalent to half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%), a single small shot of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%), or a small glass of wine (125ml, ABV 12%), containing about 1.5 units. (NHS)

Navigating St Patrick’s Day with 7 Heart Healthy Strategies

These seven heart-healthy strategies, are recommended to encourage responsible drinking and promote overall well-being during St. Patrick's Day.

1. Set a Drink Limit: Set a reasonable alcohol limit for heart health.

2. Eat Before You Drink: Eat a substantial meal before drinking to slow alcohol absorption.

3. Stay Hydrated: Prioritise water intake for overall health during celebrations.

4. Plan for Safe Transportation: Arrange secure transportation for a safe journey home.

5. Raise a Glass, Not a Gallon: Indulge in St Patrick’s Day drinks moderately, emphasising quality over quantity.

6. Irish River Dancing: Turn the dance floor into a group cardiovascular workout.

7. Mingle and Move: Engage in heart-conscious festive activities.

5 Ways to Keep Up the Damp 2024 Momentum

Beyond St. Patrick's Day, you can foster a healthier relationship with alcohol and enhance sleep quality—a crucial aspect of long-term preventive healthcare.

If reducing alcohol intake during busy work and social schedules is tough, apply these five strategies to help prioritise health goals and manage alcohol intake effectively,

1. Alcohol Apps:
Use alcohol tracking apps (such as NHS Drink Free Days, Drink Less, Reframe, Try Dry, Sunnyside and so on) for planning and monitoring consumption.

2. Socialise selectively and earlier: Openly communicate with colleagues, friends and family. Plan engagements in moderation and be selective. Meeting earlier in the day can encourage alcohol-free activities, when coffee, group cycling or swimming are more appropriate than alcohol.

3. Good hydration: Strive for clear pale yellow urine, aligning with the NHS recommendation of 6 to 8 cups/glasses of fluids daily. Water, milk, sugar-free beverages, tea and coffee all count. If you don’t like water on its own, you might enjoy it more with squeezed lemon or lime. (NHS)

4. Give yourself time: Set a time of day to stop drinking alcohol, carbonated and caffeinated drinks, to allow time for alcohol metabolism and pre-bedtime bathroom breaks. (Kevin Martinez, M.D. and Adrienne Santos-Longhurst)

5. Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, and creating a cosy sleep environment by investing in a high-quality adjustable bed and mattress can help alleviate sleep apnoea and snoring.

If opting for Damp 2024, integrate it into a holistic commitment to a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a balanced diet. Damp 2024 is more than a trend; it's a flexible approach for fostering healthy relationships with alcohol, and overall well-being. (NHS King’s College London)

Overall, as the world prepares to don green attire and celebrate St. Patrick's Day, it is essential to embrace the festivities responsibly. Understanding the holiday's origins, recognising the risks of binge drinking, and following expert advice ensures a memorable and safe celebration.

You can embrace a heart-healthy St. Patrick's Day by reducing alcohol intake with strategies like setting limits, using tracking apps, staying hydrated, eating well, and planning for safe transportation. Embrace a holistic approach with dancing, mindful choices, and prioritising good sleep. Encourage a consistent sleep schedule by creating a comfortable sleep environment with a high-quality adjustable bed and mattress.

Tailored approaches are vital for tackling alcohol dependence and sleep disorders. Consult your GP first, especially if you're worried about alcohol consumption and experience regular sleep disruptions. Additional support is available from NHS Alcohol Support, Alcohol Change UK, Alcoholics Anonymous and the British Heart Foundation.

Cheers to a happy, responsible, and heart-healthy St. Patrick's Day!

Disclaimer: This story has been researched by The Mobility Furniture Company. For any concerns about your health, please first contact your GP or the NHS 111 line.