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New Year's Eve can Take a Toll on Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Experts at Loyola University warn that New Year's Eve celebrations can take a toll on health in ways that may be surprising.

Drunk Walking, Excess Calories could Lead to an Unhappy New Year

Drunk walking is one of the number one concerns that can make for an unhappy New Year and is as bi a concern as drinking and driving. Dr. Thomas Esposito who is a trauma surgeon says, "Alcohol impairs your physical ability to walk and to drive. It impairs your judgment, reflexes and coordination."

Dr. Esposito's cousin was struck by a car on New Year's Eve. He was wearing dark clothing and alone, walking at night. He says, "His death has had a devastating effect on the family, especially on his parents. They required a lot of professional, psychological support and they really have never been the same, especially around the holidays."

If you do walk on New Year's Eve, wear light clothing, walk in a group with a sober chapterone and stay on sidewalks and crosswalks. Drivers in bar disctricts have a responsibility to look out of pedestrians who might be intoxicated.

According to a 2005 report in Injury Prevention, 410 pedestrians were killed on New Year's day between 1986 and 2002. Fifty eight of the pedestrians had high blood alcohol levels.

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Driving while intoxicated is worse than drunk walking, but according to the Insurance Institute, "Alcohol is a major factor in pedestrian deaths. In 2008, 38 percent of fatally injured pedestrians 16 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent; the percentage rose to 53 percent for crashes occurring during 9 p.m.-6 a.m. Fourteen percent of pedestrian deaths involved drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent."

Alcohol can take a toll on the immune system too says Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, director of Loyola's Alcohol Research Program. The effects of alcohol can delay healing from burns, trauma, surgery and impair bone formation. Binge drinking is linked to increased chances for heart attack and stroke.

"Of course, the best way to prevent the damaging effects of alcohol is to not drink in the first place," Kovacs said. "But it is very difficult to get people to do this."

Curbing calories on New Year's Eve can be accomplished by moderation. Popular drinks like eggnog, martinis, liqueurs and cremes are loaded with calories warns Loyola registered dietitian Brooke Schantz, who notes an 8 oz glass of eggnog has more calories than a fast-food cheeseburger.

She recommends using egg whites for a reduced calorie eggnog and substituting Coffee-Mate to flavor otherwise high calorie coffee drinks. Schantz says the more you drink the more likely you are to overindulge in food, so drink in moderation. "It's okay to treat yourself to your favorite holiday drink," Schantz said. "But try to do it in a way that won't bust your waistline." Making New Year's Eve celebrations happy and healthy takes a little planning and awareness.

Impaired judgment that comes from too much alcohol consumption can increase the risk of HIV transmission. Indiscriminate kissing can spread colds and flu. Drunk walking claims lives and too many calories can sabotage health goals. Make the holiday happy, healthy and safe by taking time to consider the potential toll on health that can accompany New Year's Eve celebrations and plan ahead.