Ushering in the New Year is a Joyous Occasion

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Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 7.41.16 PMBy Dr. Nina Radcliff

It’s official – we are on countdown for our New Year’s Eve. As time winds down on 2015 we will be finalizing plans for that evening’s countdown. Whether planning on celebrating at a house party with friends and family, or out-on-the-town at a city-sponsored event, we need to exercise caution as glasses raise to a “new year.”  Drivers, passengers, pedestrians and revelers alike need to make wise decisions about alcohol to insure everyone gets to and from their destinations, safely.

While it is always important to moderate alcohol intake, it is especially important at this time of the year where there are more opportunities to drink. Let’s take a look at some important facts and tips about managing alcohol that help ring in 2016.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: Drinking, Safety and Health

How does alcohol immediately affect our bodies? It has a temporary stimulant effect that makes us feel upbeat and excited. However, alcohol soon impairs your reaction time, inhibitions, memory, and judgment. And, as more alcohol is consumed, it functions as a depressant: sleepiness, memory loss, and unconsciousness.

What is binge drinking? It is the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session, usually defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man, or four or more drinks at one time for a woman.   

Binge drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning, a very dangerous and potentially deadly consequence. It can manifest as plummeting blood sugar with resultant seizures; drops in body temperature that can cause hypothermia; impaired gag reflexes and vomiting into our lungs; dehydration and permanent brain injury; and drops in breathing and heart rate.   

Does alcohol have calories? Yes, and often more than we think. Approximate calorie counts are as follows: wine 125 calories; beer 150 calories; champagne 85 calories; 1.5 ounce of vodka, whiskey, rum, or gin 100 calories; martinis 125 calories; margaritas 170 calories; and pina coladas 500 calories. Additionally, because alcohol inhibits our judgment, we are more likely to choose high calorie, high fat, and high cholesterol foods.

What are some other concerns about drinking? Alcohol use increases the risk of sexual violence. A potential assailant may exhibit increased aggressive behavior and an inability to interpret another person’s sexual interest accurately. Victims may have taken risks that they would normally avoid. Additionally, their ability to resist an assault may be impaired by alcohol.

I have heard that there are ways to speed up alcohol clearance, are they true? Only time can clear alcohol from our system; consuming caffeinated drinks does NOT serve as an antidote. Additionally, even after someone has their last drink, alcohol within the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream.

Drunk driving statistics: Alcohol-impaired drivers are not just a risk to themselves, but to other drivers. Every year, drunk driving is responsible for over 10,000 preventable, unnecessary, tragic deaths. During the holiday season, an average of 45 people die daily. Drunk drivers can be charged criminally with murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide. If you have had a drink, don’t drive. Period. If you rode with someone you know is drinking and you also had a drink – do not get into the vehicle – make other arrangements for a ride home with someone who has not had alcohol.

Other drugs and alcohol: Plus, consuming alcohol while taking other drugs – prescribed or otherwise – can enhance the impact of alcohol on your system and result in serious side effects from the interaction. Proceed with extreme caution.

Do not mix or drink alcohol and energy drinks: High-energy caffeinated drinks and alcohol are never a healthy mix.  You are potentially disrupting your heart’s rhythm and placing your life at risk.

Hosting a New Year’s Event? Tips to keep my guests and community safe:

  • Offer non-alcoholic drinks.  Fun on New Year’s does not need to include drinking alcohol.
  • Move “last call” up. Offer alcoholic beverages early and then switch to nonalcoholic as the night goes on.   
  • Add some spice to non-alcoholic beverages. Provide fun, yummy nonalcoholic drinks for children, guests who are drinking, and designated drivers. Whether this means adding ice cream or bringing out the blender to create amazing smoothies, this allows those who do not want to (or should not) imbibe, options.
  • Designate a host that will not drink. This person can help notice if any of the guests drink too much and need to be “cut off.” They can also collect keys when guests arrive and assess their condition before returning them. By watching for changes, you can learn a lot about any guest’s level of intoxication.
  • Ensure safe transportation. Arrange for a taxi, Uber ride, or create a designated driver system to get your guests home safely. Consider offering them a sleeping bag, couch, or guest room. 
  • Food. Foods that are high in protein remain in our stomachs longer. As a result, it can slow the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into our systems. Consider having a good variety of meats, cheese, and nuts. 
  • Liven up the party. Offer a variety of entertainment options so that alcohol is not the main focus. Provide music, a dance floor, games, and yummy food. 

Attending a Party? Designate a sober driver before the celebration begins if you plan to drink. And make sure to keep a watch on yourself and a watchful eye on friends you are traveling with — never get into a car to drive anywhere with someone who has been drinking. If you stay out late, consider staying overnight at a friend’s house or booking a local hotel within walking distance from the party.

Our annual New Year’s is something to look forward to – and when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I join with the others in wishing and yours a healthy new year – and best wishes for a year filled with more of your dreams coming to life. 

Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures. 

She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.