It’s tough to grow old. If nothing seems to be the same as it was back in the day, you’re not alone. New studies show that alcohol really does affect seniors differently than younger people.
As bodies age, they go through various changes; people have more chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes among others, and require more medications. These physical changes make it harder for seniors to drink alcohol as much as they could in their youth.
Older bodies have less water in them and metabolize alcohol more slowly. So when a senior drinks the same amount of liquor as a younger person, a higher percentage of alcohol goes to the older person’s bloodstream, making them “feel” it faster, and harder, than they used to.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2008, found that about 40 percent of adults age 65 and older drink alcohol. Although these people may not have a problem with alcohol and their drinking habits may not have changed, a senior can still develop a drinking problem.
Alcohol also negatively affects other age-related ailments. Because seniors are more likely to use medications, there is a greater risk for alcohol-medication related complications. It is important to read labels on medications to see if there are any warnings against drinking alcohol while taking medicines.
In addition, alcohol may also exacerbate conditions being treated with medication: high blood pressure, diabetes, liver ailments and memory problems, among others. Older people who consume alcohol may also become unsteady and have balance problems, increasing their risk of fractures.
Drinking too much can also lead to health problems; damaging the heart, liver and other organs, and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Older adults with major depression are also more likely to have problems with alcohol.
While it is unrealistic to expect seniors to give up drinking entirely, the National Institutes of Health recommends that people over 65 drink no more than seven drinks in a week, and no more than three drinks in a day.