“Energy” Drinks or “Stimulant” Drinks?

Does anybody “need” them?

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Centerenergy-drinks-healthy.jpg

Energy! Think of that word and the concept of consuming extra energy. Energy is a good thing, right? Who doesn’t want to have more energy? This is the deceptive way the beverage industry frames their advertising for so-called “energy” drinks. “Energy” drinks can be found almost anywhere soda pop and bottled water are sold. Even with the increasing dire news events and warnings concerning their use, many statistics show that energy drinks are among the fastest-growing consumer crazes today.

Some best-selling drinks currently on the market are Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, NOS, Full Throttle and No Fear. Two locally popular brands are Mountain Dew Kickstart and Venom Black Mamba. Even if you have never tried these, their reputation precedes them.

Well, now, you might think having a little extra energy is a great idea! What could be so wrong with that? I wondered that, myself, so I went looking for more information. Even though I wanted to believe these drinks had some value, almost every respectable source I found stated that drinking “energy” drinks is not only not beneficial, but can be extremely harmful.

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate “energy” drinks, and this is probably the main problem with these drinks. (More on this later.) Despite the lack of regulation, many companies have put labels on their products. If we trust that the labels are truthful, the basic ingredients are caffeine; another caffeine source called guarana; taurine, an amino acid that amplifies the strength of the caffeine; B vitamins; L-carnitine, an amino acid derivative; sugar; and sodium.

Caffeine

The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine, and not just a little caffeine, but some sources state up to 500 milligrams in a 24-ounce can. Caffeine is unhealthy for people under 18, because people under 18 are still developing, and caffeine affects the absorption of calcium into bones and tissue. Caffeine has a proportionally larger effect on smaller bodies, and it causes even greater hyperactivity, mood swings and anxiety due to its effects on neurological and cardiovascular tissue. Caffeine also suppresses appetite, which would not be beneficial for growing bodies. It also constricts blood vessels, has diuretic properties (which is dehydrating), and makes any kind of cardiovascular exercise risky. Of great concern, also, is the fact that caffeine is an addictive drug.

For adults (or those who are done developing), caffeine should be limited to 200-300 milligrams or about two cups of coffee per day. According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams per day.

Caffeine may be helpful for keeping alert. However, in mass quantities, and combined with the other ingredients in these drinks, there are some side effects worth mentioning. They include:

  • Heart palpitations, and increased heart rate,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Increased stress,
  • Upset stomach, and nausea,
  • Dehydration,
  • Leg weakness,
  • Feeling jittery and nervous,
  • Sleeplessness and sleep disruption, leading to fatigue and lower immunity against infection,
  • Mental confusion and difficulty concentrating,
  • Agitation, anxiety, and hyperactivity,
  • Increased risk-taking behavior,
  • Cardiovascular and nervous system damage in children,
  • Habit-forming or addictive characteristics.

Sugar Content

I decided to do a little personal research. At the local grocery store, I bought several cans of various “energy” drinks. They included Red Bull, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, Rockstar, Rockstar Pure Zero, and Venom Black Mamba. The added sugar in these drinks ranged from 20 grams in Mountain Dew Kickstart to 53 grams in Venom Black Mamba. To put this in perspective, this is as much as about 5 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar. Ingesting sugar is a problem for diabetic and prediabetic people. The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of added sugar is 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men, and 25 grams or six teaspoons for women. Keep in mind that this is not the only source of added sugar in most people’s diets!

This amount of sugar may sound like a lot, but, in contrast, a can of Coca Cola has 39 grams of added sugar, so one could easily downgrade this amount of sugar to nuisance status, compared to some of the other ingredients. Let’s keep going….

Calories

Of course, calorie content is sugar-related. The calorie content in the samples I bought (not including Rockstar Pure Zero, which has no calories) ranged from 80 calories for a 16-ounce can of Mountain Dew Kickstart to 240 calories for a 16-ounce can of Venom Black Mamba. The recommended daily number of calories for adults is between 2,000 and 2,500. If you are concerned about calories, you should be concerned about the empty calories in these drinks.

Sodium

Now we’re getting somewhere. Sodium seems to be a greater concern than sugar, surprisingly. In my samples, the sodium content ranged from 35 milligrams in regular Rockstar to 310 milligrams in Venom Black Mamba. The others were in the 105 to 180 range. It pays to read the label, since there are two servings in some 16-ounce cans, and only one in others. In a 16-ounce can of Monster, there are 360 milligrams of sodium! In comparison, our can of Coke contains 45 milligrams of sodium. The RDA for sodium is not as stringent as for sugar, but a general recommendation is set at 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day. Cutting out sodium from the diet has been a cardiologist recommendation for decades. When contemplating this gargantuan amount of caffeine and sodium, one begins to understand the solemnity of the potential health threat in these drinks.

B Vitamins

It is safe to say that B vitamins are definitely the only good thing about “energy” drinks. However, most nutritionists are skeptical about vitamin supplements, suggesting that most supplements are not absorbed into the body well, unless they are part of solid food. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins University, vitamin supplements are of no value. Therefore, the addition of B vitamins to “energy” drinks appears to be a gimmick to fool the consumer into equating these drinks with health, which has turned out to be the opposite of the truth!

No FDA Regulation

As mentioned, the FDA does not regulate “energy” drinks, so the companies who make them can put anything on the label that they want. All of the samples I bought had a label, but, according to some sources, the true amount of caffeine is rarely listed. Several of the ingredients in these drinks are known to enhance the effect of the caffeine, and some contain their own even stronger amount of caffeine. Bottom line: We don’t really know the exact amount of caffeine or other ingredients contained in them!

Flavor and Other Qualities of “Energy” Drinks

My personal research revealed a few things. I am a morning coffee drinker. I usually drink the recommended one to two cups brewed at home, and I add some cream or sweetened Coffee Mate (an indulgence I know I could edit due to the sugar in the Coffee Mate!). Though I was used to my caffeine drink tasting somewhat sweet, I didn’t care for the carbonated and syrupy, sickly sweet smell and taste of all of the drinks in my sample. In fact, I really felt they were true to their names—especially “Monster” and “Venom.” (At least that labeling is correct!) The flavor is definitely not why they are popular!

In lieu of coffee one day, I drank a Red Bull. In my opinion, there was nothing at all redeeming about Red Bull. On consecutive days, I drank Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, and Venom Black Mamba. The best thing I can say about them is they are gone. The worst? They were revolting. I needed to brush my teeth thoroughly after what seemed like a sugar steep. I am happily a coffee drinker once again.

Marketing and Slogans

Marketing can be a good thing, but it can also be misleading. I worked in marketing before I was a nurse, so I believe that the marketing to the young generation is responsible for these ubiquitous drinks. The advertising and slogans printed on the cans might reveal a clue:

The Red Bull can states, “Vitalizes body and mind. Red Bull is appreciated worldwide by top athletes, busy professionals, college students and travelers on long journeys.” (Yes, it could definitely be a “long journey” to the Emergency Department! Mixing Red Bull and other “energy” drinks with an exercise routine is a bad idea.)

The Mountain Dew Kickstart label states, “New energizing original dew. Real fruit juice.” (In small writing, “Contains 5% juice.”)

The Venom Black Mamba label states, “When you want to stay razor sharp and are ready to take on the world, you need the venom of Black Mamba. Venom packs a powerful payload of strong fierce energy….Take on the world and OWN IT!”

The Monster Energy label states, “…athletes, musicians, anarchists, co-eds, road warriors, metal heads, geeks, hipsters, and bikers dig it—you will too. … Unleash the Beast!” (I daresay the “Beast” could represent the foolish choice of drinking Monster.)

As you can see, every can portrays language that praises the contents of the can, promising it will make you cool, energized, and ready to handle anything. The problem is, it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Energy” drinks are NOT health drinks. If they were health drinks, would almost ALL of them have warning labels? They do! All but Mountain Dew Kickstart had warning labels that stated, “Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine.” In addition, their warnings should say, “Do not use while exercising.”

Alternatives to Caffeine

Instead of using caffeine, make these lifestyle choices/changes:

  • WATER, because we need to replenish our bodies, of which 50 to 70 percent is water! Drinking water will immediately energize you if you are dehydrated.
  • Proper nutrition, so your body has the correct fuel for all its processes,
  • Sleep, so your body and brain can heal and recharge,
  • Exercise, for your circulation, muscles, heart, brain, and more!
  • Avoid extra sugar, because we get enough in food,
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages, and DO NOT mix them with energy drinks.

If you must imbibe caffeine, then regular coffee, one to two cups per day (allowing no other caffeine that day) is the safest caffeine you can consume. We know about the caffeine in coffee, but the lack of regulation on “energy” drinks should be a red flag.

 

In conclusion, does anybody “need” “energy” drinks? No. It is my opinion that these drinks should not be labeled “energy” drinks, but, rather, “stimulant” drinks. A stimulant is a drug, and that is what these drinks are. As with any addiction, it is best to break the habit.

 

For further reading, and more information on stimulant drinks, visit these Web sites:

CNN:
https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/health/energy-drinks-health-concerns-explainer/index.html

WebMD:
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/whats-the-buzz-about-energy-drinks#1

National Institutes of Health:
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks

Mayo Clnic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/energy-drinks/faq-20058349

U.S. News and World Report:
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/01/16/are-energy-drinks-really-that-bad

Energy Drinks Lawsuit:
https://www.energydrinkslawsuit.com/fda-regulate-energy-drinks/

American Heart Association, Sugar 101:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WtDqhIjwaUk

SFGate, FDA recommended sodium intake:
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fda-recommended-sodium-intake-1873.html

Healthline, L-Carnitine:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/l-carnitine

Caffeineinformer.com, 20 harmful effects of caffeine:
https://www.caffeineinformer.com/harmful-effects-of-caffeine

LiveScience.com, Is caffeine bad for kids?:
https://www.livescience.com/36164-caffeine-bad-kids.html

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Are vitamin supplements beneficial?:
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins

The Sunshine Vitamin:

Benefits of Vitamin D

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

As the medical world makes discoveries, often what we think we have learned flies out the window. An example that quickly comes to mind is the discussion regarding the amount of coffee to drink, or how much red wine is a good thing. Should you get a suntan or stay in the shade? Is avoiding fat in your diet always a good thing? What about sodium? It seems the experts are always changing their minds. But in the case of vitamin D, the optimistic discoveries keep adding up, and you may find them thought provoking.

What is vitamin D, and why do we need it? Your body needs vitamin D, a “fat-soluble” vitamin, to function properly. Fat-soluble vitamins need dietary fat in order to be absorbed into the body, and they are also stored in fatty tissues for future use. There are two kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 (found in food) and vitamin D3 (photosynthesized in the skin), but, for the sake of this article, we will refer to both simply as vitamin D.  Vitamin D is most well-known for helping your body absorb calcium and thereby keeping bones strong and healthy, but vitamin D also:

  • May lower the risk of respiratory infections.
  • Increases muscle strength.
  • Helps prevent certain types of cancer.
  • Plays a role in type 1 and 2 diabetes prevention.
  • May be helpful with some forms of arthritis.
  • Defends against aggressive breast cancer.
  • Lessens the symptoms of depression.
  • Helps protect against multiple sclerosis and its symptoms.
  • Protects against age-related bone loss.
  • May protect against cardiovascular disease.
  • Possibly contributes to successful weight loss in obese patients.
  • Helps improve cognitive health.
  • Helps relieve plaque-type psoriasis in some people, if used topically.

How can our bodies acquire vitamin D? Vitamin D can be acquired in three ways. One way is by exposing our skin to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This sets off a chain reaction involving skin cholesterol, the liver and the kidneys, until converting into a compound the body can use. This compound assists the electrolyte calcium in strengthening bones. The second way the body acquires vitamin D is in food.  Supplements are the third way, and they should be used as a last resort (see below).

Here are some tips for acquiring vitamin D:

  • When outdoors, apply sunscreen after about 20 minutes (longer for darker skin), so enough of the ultraviolet rays can be absorbed. (Vitamin D deficiency is higher in black Americans, according to a 2012 CDC report, estimated at 31 percent.)
  • Expose yourself to the sun when it is highest in the sky, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (Be careful to avoid sunburn, by putting on sunscreen after 20 minutes or more, depending on your skin pigmentation.)
  • Live closer to the equator. People in the northern half of the United States, and anywhere north of 40 degrees latitude are less likely to be exposed to enough ultraviolet light. (The 40 degree latitude line can be drawn horizontally across approximately the center of the United States.)
  • Eat foods, such as salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, mushrooms, and fortified foods, such as cereal, orange juice and milk.
  • The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for people up to 70 years of age, and 800 IU for those older than 71.
  • Vitamin D is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, which simply means it can be stored in your body for when you need it. You cannot overdose on vitamin D synthesized from sunlight or from food, but it is possible to overdose on supplements. Symptoms of a vitamin D overdose are weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and calcium deposit formations in tissues such as the liver, kidneys and heart.
  • Be aware that tattoos that cover a large amount of skin are capable of blocking the production of vitamin D. Tattoos also make it uncomfortable to sit in the full sun because they heat up faster than the surrounding skin, causing itchiness. Therefore, having a tattoo is contraindicated for people who wish to sunbathe or acquire vitamin D in this manner.
  • Blood tests for vitamin D are available through your doctor.

Widely known diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency are rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Rickets can be found in children whose bones form improperly, due to lack of vitamin D. With osteomalacia, bones are weak, cause pain, and are more susceptible to fractures. In cases of osteoporosis, the bones become more porous and break easily.

We have been told that we should always wear sunscreen, and that fat in our diets is bad. But, there are times when using sunscreen is not to your advantage, and eating some fat is good for you!

 

For more information, visit these Web sites:

WebMD, slideshow on vitamin D:
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-vitamin-d-overview

WebMD, Breast cancer link:
http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20110429/low-vitamin-d-linked-to-aggressive-breast-cancer#1

MedlinePlus:
https://medlineplus.gov/vitamind.html

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) vitamin D nutrition report:
https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/pdf/Second%20Nutrition%20Report%20Vitamin%20D%20Factsheet.pdf

Mayo Clinic, vitamin D overview:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792

Be Savvy. Be Safe.

Facts About Drinking Alcohol

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Seasonal changes are on the way, and that means many college students will find opportunities to enjoy outdoor festivities where they may be serving alcohol. But, since 21 is the legal drinking age, it’s worthwhile to look at some alternatives to drinking alcohol that could be equally as enjoyable or more so.

First, let’s review a little about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful or smart. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • One (serving-sized) drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.)
  • Serving sizes: If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of these serving sizes:
    • Beer—12 ounces
    • Liquor—one ounce
    • Wine—five ounces.
  • Stay hydrated. In order to prevent dehydration, drink eight ounces of water per hour. (This will also help ward off a hangover the next day.)
  • Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  • Designate a driver. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation.

Some reasons to avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol damages liver tissue, sometimes permanently. Brain tissue is permanently damaged by drinking alcohol (something to “think” about, if you are a serious college student). It can also lower inhibitions and make you act in a way you would not normally act. Alcohol is a depressant, and so somebody who drinks alcohol regularly is more likely to develop mental health side effects, such as chronic depression. Alcoholic beverages are also highly caloric, with very little nutritional value. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk in return. It is not the best choice for an ambitious college student. Also, many young people these days are on prescription medication, which is contraindicative for drinking alcohol.

So, then, what are some alternatives to drinking that cold beer? There are countless resources online. (A few are listed at the end of this article.) Here are a few good ideas both for social events and when at home:

  • Sip a non-alcoholic beverage if attending a party where alcohol is served. For example, have orange juice, instead of a screwdriver. Drink ginger ale, instead of a Moscow Mule. Or, have a V8 instead of a Bloody Mary.
  • Drink something new to you, like herbal tea, or a Thai latte.
  • Invest in a blender, and learn to make fruit smoothies!
  • Nonalcoholic beer or sparkling grape juice is a good choice for those who do not want to draw attention.
  • Club soda, with a lemon twist, will satisfy your thirst and your taste buds simultaneously.
  • Be conscious of why you are drinking. Is it an oral fixation? Are you stressed out? Are you drowning your sorrows? Or, are you celebrating something? If you are drinking for the wrong reason, then find an alternative.
  • Think about calories. Sometimes considering calorie content is enough to change over to water. If you are trying to trim your waist for the summer, then less is more.
  • Alternate each drink with water. That way you will be drinking only half the alcohol, theoretically, as you would have been before.
  • Get involved with an active group of people, such as a group at com. Or find a campus group that interests you. Since we become like the people we hang around with, it makes sense to choose healthy people.

Finally, you’ll be glad you resisted the temptation to drink because:

  1. It’s much more fun to be in control.
  2. You won’t have a hangover when you need to study.
  3. You will not be suffering from the consequences of decisions made when under the influence.
  4. You will actually remember the fun you had and the memories you made.
  5. Your waistline, liver, brain, and overall health will thank you.
  6. Making the right choices will empower you and not depress you!

 

For more information on enjoying an alcohol-free holiday, visit these Web sites:

Alcohol facts and statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Fact sheet about alcohol and your health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Narconon.org
http://www.narconon.org/blog/sobriety/twenty-drug-free-sober-activities/

Treatmentsolutions.com
https://www.treatmentsolutions.com/31-things-to-do-instead-of-drinking-alcohol/

Related news story
USAToday.com
http://college.usatoday.com/2014/03/17/st-patricks-day-emphasizes-need-for-collegiate-alcohol-abuse-recovery-programs/

Eating Healthfully in the Winter

Watch Your Weight!
Eating Healthfully in the Winter

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Have you found a little extra padding around your middle lately? You are not alone!

Many people find that wintertime eating is tricky when it comes to maintaining weight. This is due to many factors, including the types of food available, the need for “comfort food” in the dark winter months, and the availability of traditional wintertime favorites. The holidays, and their fattening menu have just passed, New Year’s resolutions are almost forgotten, and we are back to our old habits.

Here are a few tips that may help you reach the warmer days of spring, with your waistline intact:

Water. Instead of pop or sweetened drinks, substitute water. The dry winter air tends to dehydrate us, and what we mistake for hunger is often just thirst. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will hydrate you, help curb your appetite, and aid digestion. As an alternative, skim milk is mostly water, but also contains a good amount of calcium and vitamin D. (Vitamin D helps with seasonal depression, which many people encounter during the winter.)

Fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to make certain half your plate is fruits and vegetables. Try to pass up anything with fat or sugar added, such as fruit compote or au gratin potatoes. Fresh fruit and steamed vegetables are your best bet. Eat your vegetables and fruit before you eat your main course, so that you acquire the nutrients you need and do not overdo it with the more highly caloric entrée. (No, French fries and potato chips don’t count as vegetables!)

Lean meats. Given a choice between a hot dog, cheeseburger, or a chicken breast, choose the chicken breast more often. It is lower in fat, and fat does tend to end up around your middle during the months you are not exercising as much.

Whole grains. Choose whole wheat or whole grain products instead of white bread. The fiber in a true whole grain product is better for your heart and digestion. In addition, whole grain products have not been stripped of their nutrients. If you read the label on a whole grain product, it should list at least three grams per serving.

Unprocessed food. Try to avoid quick fix solutions, like cereal bars, protein bars, and other foods in prepackaged containers. Whole foods are better and have fewer additives. If you are going shopping at the grocery store, the unprocessed whole foods are usually the ones you will find if you walk around the perimeter of the store. They include dairy, eggs, meat, produce, and more.

Eat just half. It is okay to eat only half of the food on your plate, or just use a smaller plate. Do not let your conscience guilt you into retaining your membership in the Clean Plate Club. Your mom is not looking over your shoulder.

Sample the fattening choices. Yes, it is okay to do this. Just limit it to a spoonful or two, so you don’t feel as if you have deprived yourself.

Junk food. Do not even think about it! Keep away from the bags of chips, cookies, popcorn, and other temptations. This is a good time to “just say no.” If you need something to munch on, go for the carrots, almonds, apples, bananas, and other easily tote-able foods.

Dessert. Save dessert for one day per week. This will take some doing, especially when in certain environments. Alternatively, make fruit your dessert daily. It really just takes a different mindset, and fruit can be a delicious end of the meal.

 

For more information on eating healthfully in the winter, visit these Web sites:

WebMd:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/control-your-winter-appetite#1

http://www.webmd.com/diet/food-fitness-planner/default.htm

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html

United States Department of Agriculture:
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

 

 

Staying healthy on Spring Break

Don’t Take a Break from Good Health!
Staying healthy on Spring Break

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Spring Break is quickly approaching, and some college students choose to travel for much-needed warmer weather, sunshine, and relaxation. In order to benefit the most from a spring break away from home, there are some key health items to remember.

Protect yourself from the sun. The shortened daylight associated with the winter months has taken its toll on all of us by this time of year. But that is no reason to forget to protect yourself from sunburn. Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 (preferably much higher) and reapply often, wear cover-ups and a hat, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and wear sunglasses. If (but preferably before) you notice a sunburn, get out of the sun, and keep hydrated. Mild sunburns can be soothed with over-the-counter pain medications and cool compresses. Avoid any more sun exposure until the current burn has resolved.

Checklist for being in the sun:

  • Sunscreen >/= SPF 15, reapplied often
  • Cover-ups
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Highest risk between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Avoid sunburns by moving to the shade.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • OTC pain medications and cool compresses to soothe sunburn
  • Stay out of sun until burn has healed.

Be smart when drinking alcohol. The healthiest choice is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women and two glasses per day for men. The liver cannot process more than one ounce of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer per hour. In addition, drink one eight-ounce glass of water per alcoholic drink, if at all possible, to prevent the effects of dehydration. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation. Also, be aware of people who might prey on unsuspecting tourists.

Checklist for drinking alcohol:

  • Drink only five ounces of red wine,
    one ounce of hard liquor,
    or 12 ounces of beer per day, to be healthy.
  • One drink per hour to avoid liver damage
  • One eight-ounce glass of water per hour to combat dehydration
  • Designated driver or another mode of transportation
  • Watch out for human predators!

Be aware of diseases and health risks. The CDC no longer lists Zika as a travel alert for Florida and Texas on its website. However, if you are traveling anywhere else on the globe that is on the CDC’s high-risk list, (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html), you will need to use mosquito repellent especially during the daylight hours in order to reduce the likelihood of Zika mosquitoes transmitting the virus to you.

Many travelers also come down with “Montezuma’s revenge” (food poisoning), but there are tips on avoiding that, too. The CDC has an app called “Can I Eat This?” For more information, go to this link: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/apps-about. When you go to the link, you can also download other helpful travel apps.

Checklist for disease avoidance:

  • Visit the CDC website to familiarize yourself with the region you are visiting.
  • Download traveler apps specific to your needs.
  • Find out which vaccinations you may need well in advance of your international trip.

Wherever you plan to go, near or far, have a safe, relaxing and healthful Spring Break!

 

For more information on enjoying a healthful Spring Break, visit these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Alcohol:
http://www.cdc.gov/family/springbreak/
Destination Information:
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), handling food safely:
https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/food-safety-tips-for-college-students/

Baylor University, Top 10 Ways to Not Become a Crime Victim (pdf):
https://business.baylor.edu/Steve_Gardner/Britain/NoCrime.pdf

 

I’m Sick! What do I do now?

I’m Sick!
What do I do now?

 

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Are you feeling sick, even though you may have followed all the precautions for avoiding illness? You are not alone. Many people are coming down with something this year. In fact, it is one of the worst flu seasons on record. So, here is a list of some actions you can take, now that you may be sick.

Do not assume you are sick, if you have only one symptom.

If you have only one symptom, you might not really be sick, or you may be able to shorten your illness. For example, if you have a sore throat, do not give into the temptation of thinking you are getting sick. Sometimes you will come down with something. However, if you are vigilant about taking care of yourself (e.g. brushing your teeth, drinking plenty of water, sleeping, washing hands, eating healthfully, exercising, etc.), a sore throat may be the only symptom you will experience.

Stay home, and keep your distance from people who live with you.

On the other hand, if you have a fever or cannot contain your coughs and sneezes, just stay home. As you know, there are countless immunocompromised people in the world (the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and people with certain illnesses), and you would not want to be responsible for passing a deadly virus to them! The CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours or more after your fever “breaks” or ends.

Stay home also to avoid infecting classmates. Professors are usually sympathetic toward students who call or email them beforehand when they will miss because of illness. (If you need an excuse note, come and see me, the Hilbert Wellness Center nurse, on duty Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the back of St. Joseph Hall.)

Keep up with your hygiene.

Proper hygiene will help keep germs from multiplying. Brush your teeth and tongue two to three times per day (when you wake up in the morning, after meals, and before bed). Brushing after vomiting is essential to protect your enamel from stomach acid. Brushing your teeth helps you feel better, but it also helps prevent the spread of your illness into your lower respiratory tract. Floss once per day.

Keep clean. Wash your hands often. It is the best way to avoid getting sick! Do not touch your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth, with soiled hands. Conversely, do not touch your face with clean hands and forget to wash your hands afterward. Take a warm bath or shower regularly; the moist air will help to clear your sinuses and lungs, and it will help you feel relaxed enough to try to sleep it off.

Keep hydrated (i.e. drink water!)

Since water is responsible for so many functions in our body, and our bodies are at least 60 to 70 percent water, it is crucial to keep hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day is a great habit to adopt! Refill it, as needed.

If you are feeling nauseous, I recommend sipping tepid (room temperature) water. If you try to drink cold water, it could shock your stomach, causing more vomiting. Alternatives to water include unsweetened tea, ginger ale, and Gatorade. (Just remember that anything with sugar in it will require you to brush your teeth.)

Go to bed, and sleep!

Sleeping 7 to 9 hours every night is important. Here are some reasons. While you sleep, your brain is forming pathways for learning and storing memories. Your body is building up its immune system and healing damage caused throughout the day. Hormones called cytokines, which are produced during the night, are crucial for your immune system to fight infection and inflammation. During the day, a compound called adenosine is built up, and it is only broken down again by getting enough sleep. If you miss a few nights of sound sleep, the adenosine will build up and cause sleepiness during the day. Another substance, a hormone called melatonin, makes you naturally feel sleepy at night, but that can be reversed to daytime sleepiness, if you do not fulfill your nighttime sleep requirements.

Lacking sleep undoubtedly compromises college students’ immune systems. When you are sick, it is important to listen to your body, and sleep as much as possible—even during the day.

Track your temperature.

An elevated temperature is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a fever will actually kill off many of the invading microorganisms. The problem comes in when your body overcompensates and starts killing brain cells. It is helpful to know that letting your fever rise is usually okay. According to Mayo Clinic, adults can withstand temperatures up to 103 degrees. (It is a good idea to obtain an oral thermometer as part of your personal first aid kit, but the Wellness Center nurse can also take your temperature, if needed.)

For a fever higher than 103 degrees, call your doctor. He or she may guide you through steps to reduce your fever, such as using cold compresses, taking a tepid bath or shower, or taking an antipyretic medication (one that helps lower your temperature). (Common antipyretics include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.) If none of these measures works, the doctor may direct you to visit a local emergency room. However, remember that many illnesses thrive in emergency rooms, and you should use that as a last resort!

Remember to stay in bed, or away from people, for an additional 24 hours after your fever has subsided. A normal temperature is around 98.6 degrees.

Medicines to take

Guidelines for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines vary according to the symptoms you are having and whether you have any problems tolerating them. Some should be taken with food (such as ibuprofen). Others (such as acetaminophen) can easily be overdosed because they are contained within many different products. Always read the label before taking any medication.

If you have just contracted the flu within the last couple of days, you could be a good candidate for some antiviral medication. However, these medications are less effective after three days or more.

(Note: Antibiotics will not work with the flu virus, since they kill bacteria, not viruses. Never accept a prescription for an antibiotic unless you have been diagnosed with a bacterial-related illness.)

When to call the doctor

Chances are your illness will run its course in a few days to a week or two. According to the Mayo Clinic, call the doctor when your fever climbs higher than 103, and is accompanied by:

  • Severe headache
  • Unusual skin rash that is rapidly worsening
  • Unusual sensitivity to bright light
  • Stiff neck and pain when turning your neck
  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting more than a couple of times
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Abdominal pain or pain during urination
  • Convulsions or seizures

If nauseous…

As previously stated, sip tepid water. Do not force yourself to eat full meals, especially on the first day. Instead, eat as much as you are comfortable eating. Do not stuff yourself. It is even okay to skip a meal or two to let your stomach settle down. Once you are able to handle food again, go easy. Avoid spicy, fatty foods, and opt for the “BRAT” diet. The BRAT diet is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These are all bland-tasting foods, and that is the idea. Stick to foods that have little or no flavor.

Clean and disinfect.

When you are finally out of the woods, a good idea is to clean and disinfect, so others do not catch what you are sharing!

  • Clean. First, wash surfaces with an appropriate cleaner and warm water, to remove dirt and grime. Use paper towels or washable rags. Always disinfect rags or sponges before reusing them, or toss them out. Dust, open windows to ventilate, and open the window coverings to let in the daylight.
  • Disinfect. After cleaning, use a germ-killing solution, such as a bleach or vinegar solution, to sanitize surfaces, such as doorknobs and handles, countertops where food is prepared, faucets, and anything that is handled frequently. Remember to also disinfect your bathroom.
  • Do not share personal care tools (e.g. toothbrush, nail clipper, comb, towels, glasses, cups, utensils).
  • Trash: To reduce odors and discourage the spread of germs, take out the trash.

 

For more information, follow these links:

Hilbert College Wellness Center:
“Steps for Avoiding the Flu,” (https://community.hilbert.edu/2018/01/22/steps-for-avoiding-the-flu/

Hygiene: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-winning-health-battles-with-proper-hygiene/

Hand-washing: https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/remember-to-wash-your-hands/

Sleep: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-the-importance-of-sleep/

Mayo Clinic, Information on Fevers:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20352759

 

How to Keep Active During the Winter Months

Don’t be a Couch Potato!
How to Keep Active During the Winter Months

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

If you are like me, I keep active during the warmer months, but when the cold hits, it’s difficult to resist cocooning in my space and waiting it out until spring. But, did you know that lack of exercise is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and physical health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer, and much more?

On the flip side, regular exercise can actually improve your immune system, lift your mood, keep all your bodily systems in order, decrease the incidence of disease, and increase your life expectancy. Physically fit people do not need as many prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and they have far fewer doctor visits. You are not in college to not do well, so it is a benefit to you to take care of yourself, because proper exercise can help you in every area of your life, including your grades!

There are three main categories of exercise. They are aerobic, strength training, and stretching. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate. Some of the common ways you can achieve this are by walking briskly, jogging and swimming. (During the winter, though, it is difficult to safely go for a walk or jog, and it is challenging to find a swimming pool.) Strength training is usually done by lifting weights or performing “body-weight” exercises, such as push-ups. Stretching is important to increase flexibility and range of motion, as well as increase the blood circulation to your muscles and joints, thus reducing injury.

Here are some ideas to help you pull through the winter months:

  • Find an accountability partner. On days when you just have no ambition to burn some calories, an accountability partner can help you resist the urge to wait until tomorrow. Conversely, you can help your accountability partner in the same area. Pick someone who has the same goals as you do, such as losing 10 lbs. by Easter, or simply because it makes you feel healthier.
  • Visit the gym. On Hilbert Campus, that is located at the Hafner Recreation Center. http://www.hilberthawks.com/sports/2013/9/9/Facilities_0909135001.aspx?tab=weightroom.
  • Do calisthenics in your dorm room. Youtube has many exercise videos available, but you can start out with one like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHyGqsPOUHs.
  • Run up and down your dorm stairs for 20 minutes, 3 times per week.
  • Park on the far side of the parking lot, and walk the extra distance (provided your footwear has good treads to tackle icy conditions).
  • Take up a winter sport, such as cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing or sledding.
  • When the conditions are good, you can still go for a brisk walk. 20-30 minutes, three times per week is a good start.
  • Extend the warm-weather sports you enjoy, but wear a couple extra layers of clothes.
  • If you can’t make it to the gym, invest in some dumbbells, and use them in your dorm room. Or you can use ordinary everyday objects, such as water bottles.
  • Jumping rope is a great aerobic activity. Here is a good beginner video you can try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NIvRAaOdlQ
  • Use an exercise ball. An exercise ball is large enough to be used in place of a desk chair, so sitting on it will improve posture. Plus, there are many great strength-training exercises you can learn. Many people swear by these for keeping their core strong.
  • Perform crunches, lunges, chair dips, push-ups and more in the privacy of your dorm room.
  • Take a yoga class. Yoga combines strength and stretching exercises, and many swear by it for its calming effects.
  • Use an exercise app. Most smart phones come with one of these. Find out how to use it, and it will help you set and meet your goals.
  • Finally, don’t overdo it. If you feel pain, just stop! Pain is a warning sign that you will injure yourself, and an injury is counterproductive to further fitness.

What does the nurse do for fitness? With smart phone in pocket (so I can track how far I went), I take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood for half an hour when the weather cooperates, and I use an elliptical for the days when I cannot face the elements. Every morning I stretch before I do anything else. Strength training will be the next adventure for me. I did not develop these habits overnight, but they have become part of my healthy “couch-potato-less” lifestyle. If I can do this (at my age!), then you certainly can, too!

For more information on keeping active during the winter months, click on these links:

Everyday Health, Exercises you can do anywhere anytime:
https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness-pictures/exercises-you-can-do-anywhere-anytime.aspx?pos=1&xid=nl_EverydayHealthWomensHealth_20180129

WebMD, Lack of Exercise is More Deadly than Obesity:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20150114/lack-of-exercise-more-deadly-than-obesity-study-suggests#1

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Benefits of Physical Activity:
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

Money Crashers, Strength Training without Equipment:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/strength-training-exercises-women/

Mayo Clinic, How to Stretch:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/stretching/sls-20076840

WebMD, Exercise Ball Moves:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/10-fun-moves-to-reshape-your-body-with-exercise-ball-workout#1

How to beat the winter blahs

Lacking Get-up-and-go?
How to beat the winter blahs

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Winter is here, with her cold, snow, freezing rain, and short daylight hours. If you are like me, I feel like going into my cave and hibernating until spring. But I am not a bear, and neither are you. When the blahs of winter seem to overcome you, here are some ideas to consider:

Are you following a healthy lifestyle?

A healthy lifestyle consists of many components, including eating healthfully, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, sleeping, personal hygiene, community, socialization, spiritual endeavors, and more. If any one of these factors is missing from your life, you may need to diligently and purposefully work on changing that.

Healthful eating includes having a balance of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, bread and cereals, and milk and dairy products. Staying away from junk food and sugary snacks, and reading labels is a good idea to consider. It’s best not to skip meals, and breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. Drinking enough water (64 to 125 ounces per day) is also important for all your bodily systems to function. Dehydration is often the number one cause of feeling listless, and drinking enough water may be the only boost you need!

Exercise improves health and mood. The lack of exercise will lead to poor physical and mental health. In the winter, you can get enough exercise by going to the gym, running up and down your dorm stairs for 20 minutes, or putting on your parka and boots and going outside for a walk. Going outside will also help with fresh air and vitamin D.

Sleep hygiene is important, as always. The proper amount of sleep varies from individual to individual, but the general recommendation is 7 to 9 hours per night. Make certain to wind down each night and keep a bedtime around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m.

You can tackle your community, socialization and spiritual needs all in one setting, by attending worship services regularly. People who keep themselves in isolation or ignore their spiritual health are more apt to develop depression.

Are your symptoms more severe than usual?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) runs rampant this time of year, but there is help. For more information, see my recent article on SAD: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/11/10/how-to-handle-the-dark-days-of-late-autumn-and-winter/.

Are you using your critical thinking skills?

Gaining perspective by changing your environment is often helpful. Drive to the Botanical Gardens in Lackawanna, study in a different location, such as a local coffee shop, or visit Chestnut Ridge Park for a hike in the woods. Lake Erie, though usually frozen this time of year, is also a great destination. You never know what you will see there! Budget your time, so you can include fun in your schedule.

Pamper yourself, especially if you have achieved a personal goal, such as doing well on a test, or resisting the temptation to skip your daily exercise. Pampering yourself could include anything that you like to do, like calling a friend, going to a movie, watching a sporting event, doing your nails, or anything else that takes your mind off feeling blah.

Taking a break from social media and going for a walk, visiting a friend, or reading a novel, are great ideas!

Think about the future. Spring will be here before you know it. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Give yourself positive self-talk, and tell yourself you will make it.

 

For more ideas on beating the winter blahs, visit these Web Sites:

WebMD depression quiz:
http://www.webmd.com/depression/risk-developing-depression

The Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-passage/5-tips-on-beating-the-win_b_6581542.html

World of Psychology:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/03/5-ways-to-beat-the-winter-blahs/

 

Steps for Avoiding the Flu

It’s Influenza Season!
Steps for Avoiding the Flu

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of January 13, New York State’s reports of flu monitoring are “high.” There is a reporting rate of more than 10 patients per 100,000 population, in almost every county of the state, which is considered “widespread.” Though this is concerning, and nobody wants to come down with the flu, there is no need for alarm. There are ways you can avoid contracting it, and spreading it to others.

What is the flu? Influenza (flu) is a contagious infection that spreads most easily each year from October to May (flu season). A virus causes the flu. Coughing, sneezing and personal contact are the ways it spreads. Everyone is susceptible to the flu virus, but symptoms can vary by age and immunity status. Typical symptoms are fever with chills, sore throat, achy muscles, unexplained fatigue, coughing, headache and a runny or stuffy nose.

The flu causes thousands of deaths in the United States every year. Many more are hospitalized. Most of these people are immunity challenged, such as infants and young people, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and others with compromised immune systems.

Follow these Precautions. The following are steps you should take to make certain you do not contract the flu or give it to anyone else.

  • Wash your hands often. Did you know that washing your hands is the best-proven way to reduce the spread of illness? Wash your hands before and after touching food, after using the bathroom, after contact with another person (such as shaking hands), and after they are soiled. You can also wash your hands as soon as you walk in the door of your dorm room or home, to keep your roommate or family from catching anything you drag in with you. Hands can become “soiled” even if they do not appear that way. Some ways this can happen are by touching your face, touching common surfaces that may contain microorganisms, or from poor hygiene.
  • Carry hand sanitizer. If you are not able to wash your hands, using a gel hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative. Use enough to wet the entire area, and rub it in until the gel is dry. (Two exceptions exist when hands are visibly soiled, or you have already used hand sanitizer several times.)
  • Do not touch your face without clean hands. Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you touch your face.
  • Get a flu shot. It is not too late for a flu shot. There are pluses and minuses for attaining a flu shot. On the minus side, it may or may not contain the specific virus that is going around, it takes up to two weeks for it to protect you, you can still get sick from viruses not in the vaccine, and there is a minute chance you could get a reaction to the shot. On the flip side, the flu shot is inexpensive; it very well could protect you against exactly what is going around, and when populations are vaccinated, the incidence of flu-related deaths decreases.
  • Stay away from sick people. The flu can spread through droplets in the air up to six feet away!
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you have a fever or cannot contain your coughs and sneezes, just stay home. There are many immunocompromised people in the world (the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and people with certain illnesses), and you would not want to be responsible for passing a deadly virus to them! The CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours or more after your fever “breaks” or ends.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue, and then wash your hands. The popular advice given today is to cough and sneeze into your elbow, and this would be good advice if all elbows were large enough to stop every emission from your cough or sneeze. In my opinion, some of the spray does end up going around your elbow, ending up in the air. In addition, your elbow now needs cleaning! It is better just to have a tissue ready, and cough or sneeze into that. You could even cough into your bare hands (imagine that!), as long as you go wash them with soap and water, promptly!
  • Call the doctor. Chances are your illness will run its course in a few days to a week or two. However, when in doubt, a quick call to the doctor will help you sleep better by reassuring you that your symptoms do point to the flu, and you may be a candidate for some antiviral medications. (Note: Antibiotics will not work with the flu virus, since they kill bacteria, not viruses.)
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is simply taking good care of your body and mind. Ways to do this are by getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly, exercising at least 3 or 4 times per week, drinking plenty of water, avoiding pop and too much caffeine, eating healthfully, avoiding junk food, not smoking or vaping, not overdrinking, getting fresh air, spending time with positive people, following your faith, and more. If you do not follow a healthy lifestyle, you will be among the aforementioned immunocompromised people!

The flu is going around! If you take these steps, you will have a much higher likelihood of stopping it in its tracks.

 

For more information about the flu, visit these resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report Map:
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm#ILIMap

How Flu Spreads:
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm

How to Prevent the Flu
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm

Everyday Health
How long does the flu last?:
https://www.everydayhealth.com/flu/guide/how-long-does-the-flu-last/

 

 

 

Keep it “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

FROM THE HILBERT COLLEGE WELLNESS CENTER
How to Stay Healthy on Winter Break!

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It’s mid-December, and you are looking forward to your semester break. Congratulations! However, because of the considerable stress most students endure at the end of the semester, they are often more susceptible to illness during the holidays. It is a bummer to be sick during the best time of the year. Here are some tips to help you fight off holiday illness:

  1. Maintain proper hygiene by washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and covering your sneezes and coughs.
  2. Drink enough water. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day.
  3. Manage your stress by not over-scheduling, sticking to a budget for gifts and entertainment, and avoiding negativity, e.g., watching too much TV news, letting a negative relative influence you, negative self-talk.
  4. Catch up on your sleep by going to bed at the same time each night. After all, you will not have to study for any tests! Try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  5. Stay warm and dry, and dress in layers.
  6. Eat healthfully, and avoid too many sweets. It is okay to take only one cookie or to save room for your favorite dessert, and forego having a slice of each one. Also, when you are consuming a large meal, eat your veggies first.
  7. Exercise wisely. It might be safe to go for a walk each day, but then again, there could be ice or snow in your way. Use proper footwear, or exercise indoors. Even in the winter months, exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and brain, and it keeps your immune system strong.
  8. Do not smoke or vape. Smoking exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and it lowers resistance to illness and disease. Even though vaping does not contain the tar in a traditional cigarette, it is still a danger to your health. If you smoke or vape, it is pertinent to your long-term health to quit now. You will never regret that decision!
  9. Be wise when drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow: One drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. One drink is defined as five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or one ounce of liquor. In order to maintain fluid levels, drink eight ounces of water per hour also. (In addition, this will help ward off a hangover the next day.) Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  10. Down time. Make certain this involves praying, listening to music you enjoy, thinking positive thoughts, a hobby you love, and/or spending time with someone you enjoy.
  11. Be a blessing to others. Remember, holiday time is not all about you. The more you give of yourself, the more blessed and healthy you will be. Therefore, go caroling, visit an old friend or a nursing home, smile at and hug your negative relatives, and go to church. Do something good for someone else. Spiritual health and physical health are not two separate entities; they complement each other.

For more information on managing your health during the holidays, visit these Web sites:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking

Activebeat.com:
http://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-tips-to-help-you-stay-healthy-this-winter/

Realsimple.com:
http://www.realsimple.com/magazine-more/inside-magazine/your-words/give-during-holidays

The Wellness Center wishes you a very healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year!