Beverage-specific analyses for beer, wine and liquor were additionally mutually adjusted to evaluate the association of each beverage with longevity independently of other alcoholic beverages. Analyses of the effect of pattern of drinking, and binge drinking, were additionally adjusted for total intake of alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, many prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements and herbal remedies can be dangerous or even deadly alcohol and aging when mixed with alcohol. This is a special worry for seniors because nearly 40 percent of people age 65 and older take at least 5 prescription medications. If an aging loved one drinks and takes any medications, ask their doctor or pharmacist if this combination is safe. For example, Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines just on its own. The risk of bleeding is much higher in those who drink alcohol while on this OTC medication.

alcohol and aging

Liver Problems.After years of alcohol abuse, your liver can stop working. This is a progressive process, however, and it doesn’t just all of a sudden stop functioning one day. The liver’s main function is to regulate what is in your blood, from the glucose to the protein. As we’ve discussed in the diabetes section, alcohol can stop your liver from Transitional living filtering glucose as it breaks down the alcohol, resulting in long-term damage to the arteries in your liver and all over your body. In this process of breaking down alcohol, the body also produces bad material that can damage the liver even more. Years of abuse can create scar tissue all over the liver, which can ultimately render it unusable.


Despite high consumption rates in the elderly population, there has been little focus on alcohol’s multifaceted effects in the context of aging. Ethanol interacts with numerous genetic targets that are already alcohol and aging associated with aging , and its dose-dependent lifespan extension depends on still poorly understood connections to these pathways. In fact, depression in older adults often goes hand in hand with alcohol use.

  • The American Heart Association cautions people not to start drinking, if you are not already drinking.
  • The common definitions of alcohol abuse and dependence may not apply as readily to older persons who have retired or have few social contacts.
  • On the other hand, research also shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.
  • Screening instruments can be used by family physicians to identify older patients who have problems related to alcohol.
  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are common but underrecognized problems among older adults.
  • One third of older alcoholic persons develop a problem with alcohol in later life, while the other two thirds grow older with the medical and psychosocial sequelae of early-onset alcoholism.

The fact is that families, friends, and healthcare workers often overlook their concerns about older people drinking. Sometimes trouble with alcohol in older people is mistaken for other conditions related to aging, for example, a problem with balance. You may have the same drinking habits, but your body has changed. A new study found that drinking alcohol every day can speed up aging in the brain and suggested that alcohol and aging every gram of alcohol can have an impact. Moderate drinking may exacerbate hypertension, and heavy drinking increases the risk of stroke. “Holiday heart syndrome” refers to an episode of dysrhythmia after an alcohol binge. Although alcoholic cardiomyopathy can occur with chronic, heavy alcohol use, more cardiac deaths among older adults are caused by ischemic heart disease than by alcohol-related heart disease.

Alcoholism in seniors is commonly overlooked or misdiagnosed by health care providers. Therefore, it is crucial for family caregivers to be aware of the signs of alcohol abuse in older adults. While dealing with an elderly alcoholic parent can be extremely challenging, it is important to understand that treatment programs can be successful. Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol, so alcohol remains in a person’s system longer. Alcohol may act differently in older people than in younger people, so some older people can feel increased effects from the same amount of alcohol they drank when younger.

Why You Shouldnt Rely On Alcohol During Times Of Stress

After explaining all the bad effects of alcohol, here is some good news for those of us who like to treat ourselves to a drink. Studies have shown that moderate drinking can help to lower cholesterol and lower the risk of heart attack (as compared to non-drinkers, especially in older men). Alcohol can help to lower the risk of diabetes by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Some, such as 12-step help programs, have been around a long time.

Therefore, drinking increases the risk of work and household accidents like falls and hip fractures, which can be devastating for older adults. Aside from the dangers of intoxication, alcohol use can also exacerbate many medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, ulcers and diabetes. The team found that for every gram of alcohol consumed a day, the brain aged 0.02 years — or, seven-and-a-half days. People who reported drinking every day had brains which were, on average, 0.4 years older than people who didn’t drink daily. Over time, drinking a little bit more alcohol than recommended could accelerate the brain’s aging process, according to a new study.

The study also concluded that heavy drinkers started to experience memory loss one-and-a-half to six years earlier than those who drank less. Alcohol is one of the most widely encountered drugs in the world and is credited with a wealth of health interactions. Light to moderate regular consumption (14–28 g daily) can promote heart health, protect against Type II diabetes, and likely extend overall lifespan. However, higher consumption rates lead to the detrimental effects more widely associated with ethanol consumption, including decreased motor control, cardiotoxicity, insulin resistance, and liver disease.

Alcohol abuse can also result in alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which is described as having damaged parts of the heart among patients with a long-term history of heavy alcohol consumption. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy, too, is a large risk factor in heart failure. It’s suggested people with type 2 diabetes have no more than one to two drinks during a session of drinking. If effects from the diabetes have already started to show—like blindness and hypertension—it’s suggested that you don’t drink at all. Therefore, when you’re drinking alcohol, there is more of it flowing through your bloodstream. This results in you feeling its effects for longer periods of time as the alcohol waits to be completely absorbed.

alcohol and aging

These changes can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack. These symptoms could be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The fact is that families, friends, and health care professionals often overlook their concerns about older people’s drinking. Sometimes trouble with alcohol in older people is mistaken for other conditions that happen with age. Because the aging process affects how the body handles alcohol, the same amount of alcohol can have a greater effect as a person grows older. Over time, someone whose drinking habits haven’t changed may find she or he has a problem.

and should have access to support and education about alcoholism. Physically or cognitively frail elderly patients may benefit from comprehensive geriatric assessment and referral to appropriate community agencies for home care, nutritional programs, transportation and other services. Nursing home placement may be the most appropriate treatment option for some refractory, long-term alcoholics with dementia. You may be 35 years old chronologically, but your body tells the doctor that you are 45 biologically. Biological age is determined by biomarkers of aging, which are age-related changes that take into account an individual’s physical age and predictors of the onset of age-related diseases. Not only does drug and alcohol addiction wreak havoc on your physical appearance, but it triggers the premature onset of age-related diseases as well, such as liver, kidney and cardiovascular disease. Ex-drinkers were excluded from the main analyses to avoid misclassification of ex-drinkers as abstainers.

How To Tell The Age Of Alcohol

An aging brain is especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol, so those over 65 also need to think about how alcohol influences them psychologically. As people age, they may turn to drinking because of the loss of significant others to death or fear of their own failing health. Depression can go untreated in older people because they don’t realize that this disease may be causing their increased stress. Instead, they believe they are just reacting normally to grief associated with end-of-life issues. Older people also need to think about alcohol’s effects on medical issues that younger people usually don’t deal with.

alcohol and aging

A new study supported by NIAAA provides important information about the effects of aging and alcohol on the brain. Studies show that older problem drinkers are as able to benefit from treatment as are younger alcohol abusers. He or she can give you advice about your health, drinking, and treatment options. Your local health department or social services agencies can also help. All of these conditions are increased with the presence of heavy drinking, which then in turn increases the risk of heart failure.

However, it is important to understand that withdrawal symptoms can be very risky for seniors who are dependent on alcohol, and detoxification should always be managed by a trained medical professional. While sobriety may seem like the ideal outcome for an elderly alcoholic, it may not be reasonable. Some, such as 12-step programs, have been around for a very long time. Detoxification, taking prescription medicines to help prevent relapse once a person has stopped drinking, and individual and/or group counseling can all be part of a successful alcohol treatment plan. Age-specific addiction treatment programs may best suit the unique needs of older adults struggling with alcohol use. Newer modalities focus on helping participants identify which situations or feelings trigger the urge to drink and learn alternative coping methods.

Alcohol Abuse Amongst The Elderly: A Complete Guide

Additionally, high-risk drinking — which is considered four or more drinks for women and five or more for men on a single occasion — went up 30 percent in the same time frame. Alcohol can affect the way your body fights off life-threatening illnesses like tuberculosis or pneumonia. Researchers are also studying the possibility that alcoholic liver disease might be caused, at least in part, by your immune system attacking healthy body tissues. Clinical psychologist Joseph Nowinski calls some of these people “almost alcoholics.” But some studies have suggested that drinking regularly in moderate amounts — defined as no more than one or two drinks per day — could be beneficial as we age.

alcohol and aging

Some health problems in people older than age 65, and the medicines used to treat them, can worsen with alcohol’s effects. Currently, 26 percent of men and 30 percent of women in the United States are age 55 or older, compared with 21 percent of men and 24 percent of women 10 years ago.

Chronic heavy drinking can significantly age the body and result in early signs of aging and other visible changes. It’s important to point out that not everyone who drinks regularly is an alcoholic, and not all problem drinkers consume alcohol every day. To complicate matters further, advancing age also affects how the body processes substances like alcohol and medications. This means that the same amount of alcohol can have greater intoxicating effects on a senior compared to a younger individual.

Alcohol can affect every part of the body, and chronic heavy drinking can cause significant damage to the organs and other body parts. Additionally, one study found that alcohol causes the body to age on a cellular level, which can increase a person’s risk of age-related diseases.

Health Solutions

Many elders are very clever about hiding their bad habits, so family and physicians can’t always be blamed for not addressing them. In fact, a significant number of people of all ages aren’t forthcoming with their physicians when it comes to talking about less contentious lifestyle factors like medication adherence and exercise habits. Many people simply tell their doctor what they think he or she wants to hear.

Categories: Sober living

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