Stroke Information and Support > Reducing your risk of stroke > Drink alcohol within recommended limits

Drink alcohol within recommended limits

Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

It is important to moderate your alcohol intake as drinking heavily:

  • Increases your blood pressure
  • Affects your cholesterol level
  • Can make you gain weight

Binge drinking, that is drinking large amounts over a short period of time, is particularly harmful.

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol is a measure of the amount of alcohol there is in your drink – the more units, the more alcohol there is in your drink.

The size and strength of your drink determines how many units it contains. The strength of alcohol is measured by the percentage of alcohol by volume (% ABV).

In the UK one unit is 10ml of pure (100% ABV) alcohol. This is equivalent to:

  • 76ml of standard strength wine (13% ABV)
  • 250ml (or just under half a pint) of beer (4% ABV)
  • 25ml of spirit (40% ABV)


Home measures are often more generous than those in a pub or restaurant. For example, a large 440ml bottle or a can of strong beer (6.5%) has almost 3 units of alcohol in it.

What are the current recommendations?

The bottom line is that there is no ‘safe’ limit. The risk of developing a range of illnesses increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis. To keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level:

  • Do not drink more than 14 units per week.
  • If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, spread this evenly over 3 days or more.
  • Have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.

Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby – the more you drink the greater the risk. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.

Tips to reduce the number of units you are drinking

  • Choose drinks with a lower ABV%
  • Mix wine with soda water; spirits with sugar-free drinks; or beer with sugar-free lemonade to make it go further.
  • Choose non-alcoholic drinks between alcoholic drinks
  • Fill up your wine glass with ice first then add wine
  • Choose a smaller glass size
  • Sip slowly