Happy hour at home: Why moderation matters for your heart health

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The Heart Foundation is reminding Australians, particularly those with heart conditions, to keep an eye on their alcohol intake at home as virtual happy hours and ‘quarantinis’ become the new normal under COVID-19 restrictions.

The warning comes as a new YouGov poll of more than 1000 Australians reveals one in five households has been buying extra alcohol during the pandemic. Of those, 70% say they are drinking more alcohol than usual, with a third drinking daily.

Reports on how the lockdown has affected household spending reflect a rise in retail alcohol sales in the wake of social distancing measures and the closure of restaurants and bars.

While outlays on alcohol have dropped since the huge 86% spike in spending at liquor stores in late March, when shoppers were stockpiling alcohol, a CommBank analysis shows we still spent 28% more at bottle shops in the week ending 3 April compared with the same time last year.

Heart Foundation Director of Health Strategy, Julie Anne Mitchell, said these findings highlighted the need to maintain healthy drinking habits while staying in.

“It might be tempting to overindulge in alcohol during times of stress and uncertainty, but it’s important to keep moderation in mind and continue to look after your health,” Ms Mitchell said.

Too much alcohol can increase your risk of high blood pressure and raise levels of fats in your blood known as triglycerides, putting you at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Excessive drinking is also contributing to the nation’s growing rates of obesity – another risk factor for heart disease.

“Alcohol can be a big source of extra kilojoules, so it’s good to decide in advance how many drinks you will allow yourself at home and try to alternate your alcoholic drinks with mineral or soda water,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Keep in mind different types of alcohol have different strengths, so remember to check product labels so you can keep track of how many standard drinks you’re having.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s new draft alcohol guidelines suggest healthy men and women drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day. The previous weekly guideline was 14 standard drinks per week.

“If you have a condition such as high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, coronary heart disease, or atrial fibrillation, you may need to drink less than recommended levels – speak to your GP about your risk factors via phone or video appointment, as needed, to find out what’s right for you,” Ms Mitchell said.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, the Heart Foundation is also urging Australians in home isolation to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle.

“This is a challenging time, but it’s also an opportunity to explore positive ways to cope in the ‘new normal’, such as cooking healthy and hearty meals and finding new ways to keep fit and active at home,” Ms Mitchell said.

Five tips to cut back

  • Try to alternate your alcoholic drinks with water or opt for a spritz by diluting your alcohol drinks with plain mineral water or soda water.
  • Use only half measures of spirits.
  • Choose low alcohol or light beer and wine.
  • When you are thirsty, drink water instead of alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table with your meals.
  • Have alcohol-free days during the week – this helps break the cycle of drinking alcohol every day.


Media enquiries

Brigid Simeoni, Media Advisor
M: 0427 619 589 E: brigid.simeoni@heartfoundation.org.au