How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect You Differently As You Age?
You have probably noticed that your body’s reactions change as the years accumulate. One difference that you may not be aware of is how the effects of alcohol consumption change as we age. Pegasus senior care experts in Mount Washington and elsewhere have collected these facts to keep you informed.
Enjoying a drink is part of many social activities. Many individuals like a glass of wine with dinner. Champagne often accompanies special occasions.
Although you may have maintained the same drinking practices for years, your body hasn’t stayed the same. Alcohol consumption affects you differently as you age. You can become “high” faster.
Your Metabolism Slows
The high occurs quicker because your metabolism slows as you age. The slower metabolism reduces your ability to tolerate alcohol. That leads to an elevated blood alcohol level, even when you drink small amounts.
You may exercise and stay fit, but you probably aren’t as flexible or agile as your youthful self was. Your balance probably isn’t as good as it used to be either. You are at a higher risk for injury from a fall even without a drink.
Believing that moderate alcohol consumption isn’t harmful compounds your risk. You may not realize how quickly a drink “goes to your head” until too late. You fall and incur potentially serious injuries.
You Lose Muscle Mass
Although you may not be overweight, fat replaces muscle as you age. Muscle absorbs alcohol faster than fat does. The unabsorbed alcohol remains in your bloodstream at excessive levels.
Aging bodies, slender or otherwise, cannot absorb alcohol as efficiently as younger bodies. You also typically have less water in your body, which also impairs alcohol metabolism. Many seniors are dehydrated.
As noted, you experience high blood alcohol levels because your body isn’t able to absorb alcohol efficiently. That increases any existing dehydration. When you become dehydrated, you feel dizzy and confused, among other more serious symptoms.
Combining Alcohol and Medication Can Be Deadly
Many individuals over the age of 65 take at least one medication a day. Warning labels and healthcare professionals advise against consuming alcohol with most drugs. That doesn’t stop people from doing so, especially those who are used to drinking.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs that are dangerous combinations include those used for:
- Allergies, colds, coughs – alcohol can increase the sedating effect of these and contribute to dizziness. You might also experience difficulty breathing, seizures, vomiting, vision problems, or coma.
- Angina or high blood pressure – alcohol combined with these affect heart rhythm and causes harmful fluctuations in blood pressure.
- Anxiety, depression, or mood stabilization – drinking alcohol with these can impair breathing, motor control, and breathing, and may be life-threatening.
- Arthritis – by themselves, these drugs can have significant side effects. Adding alcohol increases the severity of your body’s reaction to them.
- ADD and ADHD – these drugs are stimulants, but when combined with alcohol can result in dizziness, drowsiness, or dangerous reactions.
- Blood thinners – alcohol affects the thickness of your blood and can lead to hemorrhaging when combined with blood thinners.
- Diabetes – alcohol significantly interacts with your body’s ability to absorb insulin and diabetes drugs.
- Enlarged prostate – combining alcohol with these can potentially lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and fainting.
- Heartburn and indigestion – alcohol increases the effect of these, as well as exacerbating the underlying problem.
- High cholesterol – combining alcohol with these can impair liver function.
- Infections – alcohol with these drugs causes nausea and vomiting, as well as other digestive disorders.
- Muscle spasms – alcohol combined with these puts you at risk for seizures, loss of motor control, and other unsafe conditions.
- Nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness – alcohol with these put you at risk for overdose, as well as making you feel drowsy or dizzy.
- Painkillers – alcohol increases your risk of liver damage, ulcers, internal bleeding, loss of motor control, inability to breathe, and overdoses.
- Seizures – alcohol with these can increase your seizures.
- Sleep – alcohol increases the effect of these, leaving you with impaired motor control, memory problems, and breathing difficulties.
When you were younger, you may have been able to combine moderate drinking with some drugs. Now you have a condition for which you are taking medication as well as a decreased ability to metabolize alcohol. It’s time to take those warning labels to heart.
None of this means that you can never have another drink in your life. It means compensating for how alcohol affects you as you age. It also means learning the interactions between your medical conditions, meds, and alcohol.
You can manage your alcohol intake. If you’re healthy, experts suggest limiting yourself to seven or fewer drinks per week. They also recommend consuming no more than three drinks a day.
Use standard measurements such as the following:
- Beer – 12 oz
- 80-proof liquor – 1.5 oz
- Wine – 5 oz
- Brandy, liqueur, or aperitif – 4 oz
Medical conditions, level of activity, or weight can make a further reduction in alcohol consumption necessary.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Pegasus senior care in Mount Washington and our other locations includes professional assistance in reducing alcohol consumption. We provide all levels of care needed by you or your loved one.