Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

Ever hear a friend talk about wanting to get black-out drunk?  A new research study (Hingson, Zha, Simons-Morton, and White, 2016) shows that blacking out is the best predictor of a range of alcohol-related problems such as hangovers, missing class, getting behind in school, experiencing an alcohol overdose, arguing with friends, and doing something that was later regretted.  In other words, in this study, students who experienced an alcohol-induced blackout in the last 6 months were more likely to have other alcohol-related problems.  This was true even after the researchers statistically controlled for drinking levels.

Blacking out in the last 6 months was the second strongest predictor of getting into trouble with the police.  It was also the second strongest predictor of getting hurt or injured. The strongest predictor of both of those problems was use of 3 or more drugs.

Alcohol-related blackouts are periods of amnesia where the brain fails to store short-term memories.  Blackouts can result in periods of fragmented or complete memory loss. Consuming large amounts of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, and on an empty stomach can cause blackouts. During a blackout, a person can still speak, walk, drive, have sex, or do practically anything that a sober person could do; except the person will not remember anything that they have done during the blackout.

his new research reveals that getting black-out drunk may not be as much of a fun pursuit as you think!


Hingson, R., Zha, W., Simons-Morton, B. and White, A. (2016), Alcohol-Induced Blackouts as Predictors of Other Drinking Related Harms Among Emerging Young Adults. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 40: 776–784.

Hand hygiene

Keeping your hands clean is the most important step you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Most of us understand the importance of washing our hands before eating and after using the restroom. It is also important to wash your hands before & after preparing food, before & after caring for someone who is sick, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and after changing the trash bag.

Many people tend to grab a squirt of soap and have quick rinse without maximizing the benefits of thorough handwashing. Here are some tips to increase the effectiveness of your handwashing:

  •  Fully lather your hands on the front, back, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds each time you wash. If you need a guide, try humming the happy birthday song twice while you wash.
  • Always dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel or air dryer after washing.

Washing hands with soap and water is the most effective method; however, when soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands.

Nutrition Services

Did you know there is a Nutrition Clinic specifically for Penn State students at the Student Health Center?  Check it out and become a champion of your health!  A Registered Dietitian will meet with you to discuss your goals and personal health needs.  These needs may include, but are not limited to, digestive disorders, disordered eating, vegan or vegetarian diets, general health and wellness, weight management, nutrition and exercise, and diabetes.  Make an appointment online through myUHS or call 814-863-0461.  The cost is $28.00/hour.

Keeping track of your health goals? LionsCare can help.

Do you use your phone to track your exercise, sleep, or nutrition habits?  Why not track your drinking as well?  LionsCare is a free, confidential tool that can help you keep track of your alcohol use.

Signing up is easy.  Text the word HEALTH to 412-906-4450.  Once you are registered, visit to view your drinking patterns.

In addition to tracking your drinking, LionsCare users receive 12 weeks of personalized text messages to help you stay on target with your goals.  Each Thursday, LionsCare will help you set goals for the weekend and will check in with you again on Sunday.

LionsCare has been shown to reduce negative consequences related to drinking such as hangovers or blackouts.  Non-drinkers also receive helpful tips to navigate the social pressures that can be common in the college party scene.


National Wellness Week

National Wellness Week is September 11-17, 2016.  The national week is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal agency with the mission to improve behavioral health outcomes in the U.S.   National Wellness Week is a time to reflect on your health and well-being.  It’s a great time to either reinforce or start developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.  You can get started by learning about the Eight Dimensions of Wellness*:

  • Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  • Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  • Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  • Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  • Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  • Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  • Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  • Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

Subscribe to the Healthy Penn State Twitter Feed for lots of great information and tips for easy ways to integrate healthy behaviors into your day.


*Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,

Organic Sports Drinks: Are all sugars created equal?

Refuel, replenish, and stay hydrated. We’ve all heard this advice about what to do after a hard workout. So what do you reach for after exercise: water, Gatorade, tablespoons of sugar?

Sports drinks have been popular for quite some time, but in recent years dietitians have started questioning their value because of the high sugar content.  Gatorade has approximately 20 grams of sugar in 12 fluid ounces. Similarly, Powerade has 21 grams of sugar in 12 ounces.[i]  Both Gatorade and Powerade make lower sugar options, which contain 12 grams of sugar in 20 fl oz (G2)[ii] and 0 grams of sugar in Powerade Zero.  Consuming any type of sports drink on a daily basis will easily boost your daily intake for added sugar.  The US dietary guidelines recommend that added sugar should be limited to less than 10% of calories consumed each day. Possibly it’s time for a less sugary hydration drink.

Maybe it’s time for an organic change. Food and drink analyst, Beth Bloom[iii], states that individuals tend to purchase organic products because they think the items are healthier. But that might not be the case when it comes to sports drinks; organic sports drinks don’t mean less sugar. According to dietitians, sugar is sugar, even if it’s organic. In a recent NPR story, Haemi Choi, a sports medicine doctor at Loyola University Medical Center[iv] , explains that organic cane sugar is not healthier, or nutritionally better, than the form of sugar found in regular sports drinks.

So what’s the best way to stay hydrated?  Choi suggests water.






Healthy living starts with you

UHS offers a 12-week weight management program for students.  Participants will meet with a registered dietitian six times to discuss personal dietary and fitness goals.  Students with the following health needs are encouraged to enroll in the program:

  • Prediabetes
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Overweight/Obese
  • Metabolic Syndrome

This is a great time to start building healthy habits for life! Learn more by  calling 814.863.0461 to make an appointment.


Researchers find more evidence that exercise improves memory.

Many studies have shown that exercise is good for the brain, but the link between exercise and memory has been unclear.  A group of researchers looked at the substances that are produced by muscle cells in response to exercise.  One of those substances, a protein called cethepsin B, contributed to the growth of new cells and connections in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is associated with memory.  After finding that high levels of cethepsin B improved memory in mice and monkeys, the group conducted a similar study involving 43 sedentary university students.  Half of the students remained sedentary while the others exercised several times each week for 4 months.  The students who exercised experienced an increase in cathepsin B levels and improved on a memory task (reproducing a geometric pattern from memory).

Skipping your workout to study?  Think again.  You may do better on your exam after you exercise.



Moon et al., Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function, Cell Metabolism (2016),

We are…the 91%

Did you know that 91%[i] of Penn State students do not smoke cigarettes?

There’s no better time to quit than now: Effective August 1, the Pennsylvania cigarette tax increased from $1.60 to $2.60 per pack[ii]. If you smoke a pack a day, quitting now would save you $3,504 a year! University Health Services can help you kick the habit for good and for free.

The 7-week program is based on the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking® program. You’ll meet individually with a trained health educator.  You’ll learn about stress management, what to do when you have a craving, how to control your weight while quitting, and much more.

Schedule an appointment at or call (814) 863-0461 for more information.

[i] American College Health Association.  American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II. Pennsylvania State University Executive Summary Spring 2016. Hanover, MD:  American College Health Association; 2016

[ii] PA Department of Revenue


Change your password; Change your life

Remembering computer and other passwords can be an annoying part of modern life.  What if your password was a mantra to help stay focused on something you want to achieve?  It could be “BUILDNEWFRI3NDHIPS,” “BREATHE2RELAX,” or “MAKEDEANSL1ST.”   It would give you an opportunity to repeatedly remind you to keep working toward the things that make you happy.  And it might make remembering your password a little easier.

Smith, M. A. (2016). Calm; Calm the mind, change the world. New York: Harper Design.