Here’s how alcohol affects your body as you age

There are various factors of daily life that can exacerbate the aging process. One of the most harmful of those can be daily alcohol usage. There are several risks to moderate or heavy drinking for older adults. They range from negative medication reactions to health problems, according to several studies.

Alcohol usage has rapidly increased for adults 60 and older, according to research published in the National Library of Medicine. Those researchers found that alcohol usage — especially in older women — has jumped more than 107% in the United States between 2001 and 2013. In a 2021 University of Michigan “Poll on Healthy Aging,” more than 27% of older Americans reported having six or more drinks in one week over the past year.

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Slower reflexes could impact activities

Alcohol is a depressant drug that affects the central nervous system. In older adults, it can alter vision, reduce hearing, inhibit the ability to balance, impair judgment, and delay reaction time, according to the American Addiction Centers. While younger people experience those symptoms as well, their tolerance for alcohol tends to be greater. An older person’s blood alcohol level may be below the legal drinking limit, but the impacts such as slower reflexes and altered vision could appear after one glass of wine.

Adverse interactions with medications

Another concern for older adults is how alcohol interacts with other medications. Serious repercussions can occur when mixing several standard medications and over-the-counter drugs with alcohol.

In many cases, medicine labels clearly state whether alcohol should be avoided while taking, but there are not always explicit directions regarding alcohol mixing with other drugs.

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A few medications that can interact badly with alcohol include:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Cold and allergy medicine
  • Cough syrup
  • Sleeping aids
  • Pain medication
  • Anxiety or depression medicine

Increased health risks

With aging, there are also a number of common health problems that arise. In some cases, drinking alcohol could elevate those conditions. For example, those with heart conditions are at particular risk with moderate to heavy drinking. There are also adverse effects of consuming alcohol for those undergoing cancer treatment.

According to Alcohol Addition Centers, some health problems that can worsen with heavy drinking include:

  • Mood and mental health disorders
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stomach ulcers

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