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Older Adults and Drinking

Many Americans struggle with drinking, and with older adults, oftentimes the concerns and trouble signs go overlooked by relatives, caretakers, and others. Problems caused by alcohol in seniors might be mistaken for something else that may otherwise be a normal result of aging, but the fact is that alcoholism is a potentially serious issue at all stages of life, and should be taken seriously and treated with care and concern.

One factor affecting drinking in older adults is that the body may handle and process alcohol differently in our twilight years. Your drinking habits may not change as you enter your later years, but the effect it has on your body and health may change despite that. Falls are a notorious and frequently serious hazard for older adults, and the balance issues and loss of motor function brought about by alcohol might compound that, increasing your risk of injury from a fall or a motor vehicle accident.

Additionally, alcohol has a long list of well-studied and understood health effects, many of which are particularly detrimental to the lives and continuing health and well-being of seniors. Too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Cancers, liver damage, immune disorders, and brain damage
  • Worsened health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, ulcers, memory loss, or mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
  • Make treatment of conditions more difficult. The changes that alcohol causes in your heart and blood vessels can prevent you from feeling the pain that can be a warning sign to a heart attack

Many medicines, even simple over-the-counter or “herbal” remedies, have negative, potentially life-threatening interactions with alcohol. Because seniors tend to take a variety of medications for many conditions, it is crucial to discuss drinking habits with your healthcare provider honestly.