Understanding the risks of turning to alcohol

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   3rd Apr 2020

Foster healthy coping tools that will last long beyond COVID-19 – advice from Alcohol Action Ireland and Mental Health Ireland.

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues has published a set of advice guidelines to help people understand the risk of turning to alcohol in these difficult times. This advice was developed in tandem with Mental Health Ireland, a leading provider of mental health promotion in the voluntary sector.

According to the advice, “during times like this, it might be difficult to stay on top of how much we are drinking, or indeed there might be an inclination to drink more heavily and more frequently as we reach out for something to numb the tension. Unfortunately, this leads to a corresponding rise in anxiety, depression and irritability and so to greater stresses. Relationships may be also be coming under pressure as the drinking is increasing.”

However, this can also be a time when we can develop healthy coping tools that will last long beyond Covid19, the advice added.

" During times like this, it might be difficult to stay on top of how much we are drinking,"


Excessive alcohol consumption is not good for your heart as it can increase the heart rate and blood pressure while its calorie content also contributes to weight gain.

Alcohol also increases the chance of developing cardiac arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation). This is in addition to all the other deleterious effects alcohol has on our health including an increased risk of cancer.

Nearly one million people in Ireland have high blood pressure, a major cause of heart attack or stroke, and last year almost 9,000 people died from cardiovascular disease in Ireland.

High blood pressure usually comes with an even bigger problem — a lack of symptoms.

High blood pressure is one of the most common alcohol-related health problems, but many people don’t realise they have it.

Drinking too much alcohol over time raises blood pressure, which means the heart must work harder to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure can significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart disease; it can affect how quickly a heart beats (arrhythmias); and can even cause the heart muscles to weaken leading to a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Excessive alcohol consumption is not good for your heart as it can increase the heart rate and blood pressure.


Ways to mind your mental health

Here are some ways to mind your mental health while observing a low-risk relationship with alcohol that have been developed by Alcohol Action Ireland and Mental Health Ireland.

Stay within the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines

Low-risk drinking reduces the risk of alcohol-related problems.

The recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than:

Drinks should be spread out over the week – no more than 2 SD/day for men, or 1 SD/day for women.

Have 2-3 alcohol-free days per week.

For more on these guidelines and what is a standard drink check out the HSE site askaboutalcohol.ie

The Ask About Alcohol drinks calculator also provides fact-based non-judgmental information about how drinking affects health, wallet and weight.

Commenting on the publication of these advice guidelines, Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland said, “While we are all adjusting to our changed circumstances it is worth holding  on  to the knowledge that this is a temporary situation and at some point will end. Normal life will resume. We might be able to use this time to help ourselves develop new skills and coping strategies that will have long term benefits well beyond this immediate period.”

We are here for you 

We are living in difficult and uncertain times and here at the Irish Heart Foundation we are very aware of the extra challenges people living with the effects of heart disease and stroke face.

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a number of services to support you at these difficult times.

Telephone and email support

Our nurses are available on phone and email support Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Call 01 6685001 or email support@irishheart.ie

Further useful sources of information:


World Health Organization

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Health Protection Surveillance Centre

For global travel information please see the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website or download the Department’s Travelwise app 

Please note the information on this page is for general guidance and comes from national and international guidance. It is not intended to replace the individual support of a medical professional.


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alcohol alcohol harm cardiovascular diease coronavirus Covid-19 high blood pressure

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