The house is decorated, the presents are mostly wrapped, the Christmas cards are sent out and the Christmas fun begins. For many of us, December is filled with parties and gatherings to celebrate Christmas and welcome in the New Year, but are we being as careful as we should when participating in all of this seasonal fun?
While many parties will have the bar stocked and the liquor on hand, what limits have you set for yourself on how much you will allow yourself to drink? Drinking too much in one night, or too much over time, can seriously affect your health.
Some of the side effects of drinking too much include:
- Brain Functionality. Too much alcohol can affect how your brain looks and works. This can affect your behavior and mood and make it harder to think clearly and harder to move with coordination.
- Liver Problems. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to serious liver problems and inflammation.
- Cancer Risk. It can increase your risk of certain cancers in some areas of your body, including: mouth, throat, breast, liver and esophagus.
- Heart Malfunctions. Alcohol, when abused, can stretch your heart muscle and lead to irregular heart beat (arrhythmias), high blood pressure and stroke.
- Digestive System. When too much alcohol enters the body, the pancreas begins producing toxic substances that lead to swelling of the blood vessels and dangerous inflammation in the pancreas—an issue commonly known as pancreatitis. The result of this is an inability to properly digest food.
- Weak Immune System. Too much alcohol can weaken your immune system and make you much more vulnerable to disease. Those who drink too much are more likely to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than those who don’t drink in excess.
[Note: This information was found at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism]
How to Drink Responsibly and Enjoy the Holidays
So does that mean you have to forego the alcohol this Christmas and New Year’s Eve? No, not necessarily. However, you should be careful about how much alcohol you’re consuming all year round. When you find that you’re drinking multiple drinks a day, every day of the week, it’s definitely time to cut back.
Here we offer several tips to help you drink responsibly this holiday season and throughout the years ahead to help you avoid the health troubles we talked about above.
Before You Go Out, Make a Plan
- Know your limits. Know how much you can handle and don’t exceed that amount. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men should have no more than four drinks on any single day AND no more than fourteen drinks per week. Women should have no more than three drinks on any single day AND no more than seven drinks per week. (Keep reading to find out what one drink actually equates to). However, they warn you that even with these limits in place, you can still have problems if you drink too fast or have health issues.
- Never drink alone. Drinking alone means you have no accountability for how much you drink. Find a group of your friends who you like and trust and drink with them. And when I say a group of friends you like and trust, make sure they are friends who don’t encourage binge drinking or who would look down on you for not drinking or not drinking fast enough. And within this group, find one person who knows his or her limits and ask him or her to tell you when you’ve had enough to help you maintain control.
- Transportation. Know how you’re going to get home. NEVER drink and then drive, even if you didn’t drink that much. It may affect you more than you think and it’s not worth endangering yourself, your friends or family who might be in the car with you or others on the road.
- Good comes to those who wait. Don’t drink before you are of legal drinking age. If you drink before then, you are breaking the law and that’s not being responsible.
- Attitude. Don’t drink if you are in a poor mood. Alcohol is a depressant. If you are already upset, angry or unstable, drinking will only make you feel worse.
- Eat with your drink. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea. The effects of the alcohol will hit you a lot faster if you do and you will be more vulnerable to getting sick.
- Plenty of sleep. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep, alcohol will make it harder for your brain and liver to function properly. Make sure you get plenty of sleep if you know you will be drinking the following night, or don’t drink when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
While You Are Out, Maintain Control
- Hydration. Alcohol will dehydrate the body and draw the minerals and vitamins out of your body. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep to a 1 to 1 ratio of non-alcoholic to alcoholic beverages.
- Know what’s in your cup. Make sure you know what your drink’s alcohol content is before drinking it—this goes for bars and parties. Different types of alcohol can have different effects on you.
- No more than one drink per hour. One drink equals one 5 oz. glass of wine, one 12 oz. beer or one 1.5 oz. shot of 40 percent alcohol. Do not exceed this amount in one hour. You may think you are okay after that first drink, but it can take time for the alcohol to take its full effect.
And, Finally, Stay Away from Dangerous Situations
- Don’t leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger. You never know who would be willing to go to the extreme and slip something in your drink when you aren’t looking.
- Feeling sick? If you start to feel sick at all, stop drinking.
- Avoid peer pressure. They aren’t very good friends if they’re willing to pressure you into something that will make you feel sick and make you regret your actions later.
We have given you a lot of helpful tips to control your alcohol consumption, but there are circumstances when alcohol should be avoided, including when you:
- Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
- Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- Taking any medicines that interact with alcohol
- Have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate
- Have a family history of alcoholism or have experience with it yourself.