Alcohol And Aging
Alcohol abuse is a bigger problem in older adults than many people realize. If you are a heavy drinker, you may keep drinking a lot as you get older because you think alcohol does not affect you. Or you may drink as a way to deal with grief over recent losses in your life. However, you may be destroying your health by overuse or abuse of alcohol.
WHAT PHYSICAL PROBLEMS CAN ALCOHOL CAUSE?
Alcohol can have many harmful effects on the body. Abuse of alcohol may causes or contributes to:
- stomach problems such as gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach) or ulcers (raw places or sores in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract)
- gout, which is a buildup of uric acid that can cause pain and swelling in the joints
- high blood pressure
- blood sugar levels that are too high or too low if you have diabetes
- higher risk of cancer of the pancreas, mouth, tongue, throat, esophagus, and liver
- liver problems such as hepatitis and cirrhosis
- heart failure, which means the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should
- harmful interactions with medicines, especially with medicines that can cause drowsiness
- sleep problems, such as not getting enough deep sleep or having trouble staying asleep
- loss of protein, minerals, and vitamins, especially thiamine (vitamin B-1) and other B-complex vitamins, which your body needs to work normally
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- depression and a higher risk of suicide
- worsening of most other medical problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and circulation problems.
You can have more problems keeping your balance as you get older. Alcohol can make these problems worse. You may be more likely to have falls and other injuries.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
healthy women should not have more than 10 drinks in a week with no more than 2 drinks a day most days and men should not have more than 15 drinks in a week with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
Reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than 3 drinks for women or 4 drinks for men on any single special occasion. One drink is a 341 ml (12-ounce) beer, a 341 ml (12 ounce) cider/cooler, a 142 ml (5-ounce) glass of wine, or 43 ml (1 and 1/2 ounces) of 40 % distilled alcohol a day.
It is dangerous to drink any alcohol with some medicines. Make sure you ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to drink alcohol.
Alcohol can be damaging if you suffer from ulcers; gastritis; or disease of the liver, esophagus, or pancreas. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if small amounts of alcohol are safe for you.
SHOULD OLDER ADULTS CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL?
There are several reasons for cutting back on alcohol as you get older.
- Alcohol has a stronger effect when you are older.
- Reaction time slows down with age, and alcohol slows it even more.
- You are more likely to get confused if you drink too much.
- You may ignore signs of possible health problems, such as pain, when you are drinking.
If you take a lot of acetaminophen (Tylenol), drinking alcohol is more likely to damage your liver. Never take more than 6 to 8 of the extra-strength tablets, caplets, or capsules in a 24-hour period. If you drink alcohol regularly, ask your healthcare provider what dosage is safe.
If you take daily anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen, do not drink alcohol unless your healthcare provider approves. It may increase the risk of stomach upset.
IF I THINK I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM, WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
If you are thinking about talking to someone about your drinking, don’t hesitate.
- Get help and support from family, friends, or your healthcare provider.
- In many places, you can call a counseling hotline or crisis line for help.
- Talk to someone at your local senior center about how to get help.
- Local chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous and other community agencies will talk with you about quitting or cutting back.
If an older person you care about has a drinking problem, there are ways you can help. Talk to counselors or people at Alcoholics Anonymous about how you can help.
For more information about Alcoholics Anonymous, you can visit their Web site at
http://www.aa.org or call 1-212-870-3400.
For information on an AA meeting near you visit http://www.area82aa.org/meetings or call 902-461-1119 (Halifax & Dartmouth district)
For information on Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: