10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer a week can shorten life expectancy by years
Drinking as little as one pint of beer a day could shorten your life by six months.
A major international study of almost 600,000 people found those drinking more than five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer each week were at greater risk of stroke, heart failure and fatal aneurysm.
The report, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that a 40-year-old regularly drinking between 200g and 350g of alcohol per week - about 10 to 18 glasses of wine or pints of beer - had a lower life expectancy of around one to two years.
Those exceeding 350g of alcohol every week could shed four to five years off their life.
Although it concluded that alcohol did lower the risk of non-fatal heart attacks, it found that "on balance" there were no health benefits from drinking.
Tracy Parker from the British Heart Foundation says any positive health effects of drink are relatively minor.
“Any benefits are outweighed by the higher risk of other heart and circulatory diseases such as stroke and heart failure.
“And of course we have got to remember the effect that alcohol has on our risk of cancer.”
Lead author, Dr Angela Wood said: "The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions."
The HSE warns that in addition to affecting your health and performance, alcohol can impact on your weight, looks and sleeping patterns.
The Government guidelines note that there is no “safe” amount of alcohol, with the more you drink increasing the risk to your health.
The recommended limit for men is 17 standard drinks per week (170 grams of pure alcohol) – with at least two to three alcohol-free days.
The limit for women is 11 standard drinks (110 grams of pure alcohol) – also with at least two to three alcohol-free days.
The limit is higher than in the UK, where the recommended weekly amount stands at 14 units (112 grams of pure alcohol for both men and women).
Alcohol units in the UK comprise of 8 grams of alcohol, whereas in Ireland they represent 10 grams.
In the US, the guidelines for men are set an upper limit of almost 25 units (or 350 grams of alcohol).
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has said the Lancet study seemed to "broadly reinforce" government guidelines in the UK.
Reporting from Michael Staines and IRN ...