Posted on Nov 5, 2019 in Senior Health
As you get older, your body undergoes many changes including the way your system is impacted by the effects of alcohol.
Why is this?
Well, today we’ll briefly explore why alcohol exerts different and more dramatic effects as you advance in years.
If you’ve noticed that you’re drinking exactly the same amount as you always have but you’re feeling more of an effect from the alcohol, this is perfectly natural.
Fine lines and wrinkles betray the fact your skin is losing strength and flexibility. You’ll also notice that you’re losing muscle as you age while potentially gaining or losing weight.
Something else happens as your body undergoes these changes…
Your system will break down alcohol more slowly, meaning the same beer or a glass of wine might hit you a bit harder than it used to.
Not only do you become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, your reaction times start to slow and it’s commonplace to lose your sense of balance. Throw all this together and the overall impact of alcohol is magnified as you age.
If you’re wondering why you should become less tolerant to alcohol with age, there are a number of reasons including:
Taking this into account, if you drink the same amount of alcohol as someone younger, you’re likely to have higher BAC (blood alcohol concentration) levels.
Since alcohol depresses brain function more in older people, you might find your coordination and memory are impaired through drinking. The chance of hypothermia and incontinence rises. You’ll also be more exposed to the likelihood of injury, accident and overall self-neglect.
And none of these factors are necessarily related to you drinking more than you used to or drinking irresponsibly. This is why it’s essential to be fully aware of the way in which alcohol packs a heavier punch as you enter your golden years.
Now that you know alcohol is affecting you differently, what can you expect in terms of consequences if you drink too much when you’re older?
It’s no secret that alcohol can damage almost every part of your body when you drink to excess.
Here are just some of the ways you can harm yourself by drinking more than you should:
This list is not meant to suggest you’ll suffer from all these problems if you drink as a senior. You’re simply placing yourself at increased risk of these things happening if you don’t keep alcohol consumption in check.
Before we look at what’s considered a safe level for seniors, how about the way alcohol affects mental health?
Beyond the physical backlash alcohol can generate, you might also notice some of the following psychological effects:
Again, these are not felt by all seniors who drink but there’s a real risk of all these effects if you drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol.
Perhaps most crucially, alcohol can have a significant and detrimental effect on your overall safety as you get older…
Drinking impairs your coordination and judgment while slowing down your reaction times. This increases your risk of household accidents, falls and car crashes.
Not only are you at heightened risk of falling, your bones are weaker than when you were younger so you’re more likely to break or fracture your hips and other bones.
Alcohol misuse can also strain relationships and leave you feeling more isolated and lonely.
We’ve established that you might simply be drinking the same amount as when you were younger but experiencing more pronounced effects from alcohol.
Perhaps, though, there are other underlying reasons and your drinking is actually increasing. Why is this?
Roughly one-third of all those people with drinking problems develop them in later life.
As you get older, declining health, and bereavement can cause you to feel bored and possibly even depressed.
You might find it harder to get around and tough to maintain a social life. This can leave you feeling socially isolated and restless.
Maybe all of these factors combine and you find solace in a beer or a glass of wine. It’s very easy for this to become a natural part of your daily routine. Tolerance can build. Soon you could be drinking more and more often than you’re consciously aware of.
Often, your loved ones might not even realize that you’re drinking more than usual. It’s easy to chalk up many of the symptoms to the natural effects of aging. It’s normal that you’re a little unsteady on your feet, right?
Having highlighted just some of the shower of problems alcohol can create as you get older, what’s a safe amount to drink?
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that moderate drinking is a man consuming two standard drinks daily or a woman taking a single standard drink daily.
A standard drink is a 12oz beer, 8oz malt liquor, 5oz wine or 5oz spirits.
Other advice from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism concerns males drinking 5 standard drinks in a 2-hour period or females drinking 4 standard drinks in the same period. This is termed binge drinking and can be particularly damaging, all the more so in seniors.
You should take into account what we’ve outlined above about the more intense effects of alcohol as you age and lean on the side of caution. The safe limits above are for adults. There’s been very little research into what could be considered a safe amount of alcohol for seniors.
What should you do if you think you’re drinking too much?
Speaking with your family and your doctor might reassure you that you’re still drinking within safe limits.
If you’d like to investigate any of the services we offer here at Landmark Senior Living, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help out.