Alcohol and Older Adults
Many older adults enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while watching the game on TV. Having a drink now and then is fine. But don’t overdo it. As an older adult, alcohol may affect you differently than it does younger adults.
Alcohol and aging
As you age, you become more sensitive to alcohol’s effects. After age 65, your lean body mass and water content drop. Plus, your metabolism slows down. Alcohol stays in your system longer. As a result, the amount of alcohol in your blood is higher than it would have been when you were younger.
Older adults also are more likely to have hearing and eyesight problems. They have slower reaction times, too. This puts them at higher risk for falls, broken bones, and car crashes tied to drinking.
Some health problems in people older than age 65, and the medicines used to treat them, can worsen with alcohol's effects. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, and ulcers.
Heavy alcohol use can also lead to other health problems, such as cancer and liver disease.
It's also linked to depression and suicide.
Medicines taken by older adults are more likely to have serious interactions with alcohol and other medicines. These include many prescribed and over-the-counter medicines and herbal products. Medicines and alcohol can interact even if they’re not taken at the same time. That's because the medicine may still be in your blood when you have a drink.
What’s a safe amount?
The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism advises that people older than age 65 who are healthy and who do not take any medicines have no more than 7 drinks a week. That's an average of 1 standard drink each day. And no more than 3 drinks on any 1 day. One drink equals:
12 ounces of beer, ale, or wine cooler
8 ounces of malt liquor
5 ounces of wine
Or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor
How to cut down
If you want to limit your drinking or your healthcare provider suggests it, try these steps:
1. Write down your reasons for cutting back. These might include wanting to improve your health or to sleep better. Other reasons may be to improve relationships and to stay independent.
2. Track your drinking habits for at least 1 week. Write down when and how much you drink every day.
3. Set a drinking goal. You may decide to cut down to 1 drink a day. Or not to drink at all. Write your goal on a piece of paper and put it where you will see it every day.