Moderation urged for older adults when consuming alcohol

Keep tabs on your alcohol consumption especially if you are getting older, have health issues or take medications, urges the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Aging lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol and slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol, remaining in a person’s system longer. Older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger, putting them at higher risk for falls, car crashes and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking. Older people also have thinner bones than younger people, so their bones break more easily. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.

Light to moderate alcohol consumption is considered acceptable for healthy adults. 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 seven drinks a week. The American Diabetes Association guidelines indicate one drink or less a day for women, or two drinks or less a day for men is acceptable.

Heavy drinking can exacerbate certain health problems that are common among older adults, including: diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, osteoporosis, memory problems and mood disorders. Alcohol increases the amount of estrogen in the body, and for women and particularly postmenopausal women, that has a role in developing hormone-sensitive breast cancer.

For seniors who consume alcohol and take medications, consider these important safety reminders:

— Always ask your health care provider or pharmacist if the medications, whether prescribed or over the counter, that you are taking will interact with certain food and drinks.

— Adhere to warning labels on medicines that caution against consumption of alcohol. The danger is real. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting or loss of coordination. It also can increase the risk for internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulties in breathing.

— Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbal remedies, can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Medications that can interact badly with alcohol include: aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and allergy medicine, cough syrup, sleeping pills and medications for anxiety or depression.

— Be extremely cautious or avoid alcohol altogether when taking beta-blockers (used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and chest pain, or angina; and sometimes used in heart attack patients to prevent future heart attacks). Alcohol can potentially make beta-blockers less effective or increase the risk of side effects.

— Alcohol can also make a medication less effective or even useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.

— Harmful interactions between alcohol and medicines can occur even if they are not taken at the same time.

For older people who choose to drink with permission from their health care provider and are aware of the risks, stay within your limits to help prevent any serious interactions by:

— Taking light beers and drier wines, which are lesser in alcohol content and calories.

— Not consuming sweeter alcohols or drinks which are higher in sugar.

— Mixing a mixed drink with water or sweet drinks with diet soda.

Michigan has the 14th highest percentage of residents aged 65 and older out of all 50 states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 statistics. That is, 17.5 percent of Michigan’s population is 65 years old or older, with 29.1 residents aged 65 and older for every 100 working-age residents (16-64 years old).

Almost a quarter of Michigan’s population was age 60 or over (more than 2.4 million people) in 2018, and the U.S Census projects that will increase to 2.7 million by 2030. Michiganders age 60 will live for about 23 more years on average, based on calculations by the CDC. Those age 85 and older continue to be the state’s fastest-growing population segment.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today