Alcohol Concerns Among the Elderly

Plenty of experts have recently been singing the praises of moderate alcohol consumption and with the growing interest in craft beer, wine and food pairing and mixology, imbibing has become a thriving part of adult culture.  But seniors may want to stop and consider the effects alcohol may have on the aging body, especially if taken with prescription or over-the-counter medications.

A recent study from the University of Colorado found that drinking alcohol can damage the immune systems and organs which can leave older adults more vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia.  Because seniors often take multiple medications and naturally have an elevated state in inflammation throughout the body, alcohol consumption should be avoided or limited.

The National Institute of Health also warns that too much alcohol can worsen chronic health conditions including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, memory issues and diabetes.

Alcohol abuse among the elderly is often referred to as a “hidden epidemic”.  As much as 17 per cent of the senior population over the age of 65 is estimated to have a drinking problem.  Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol and this puts older adults at risk for falls and car accidents and well as increased health problems.

Dangerous Drug Interactions
When mixed with alcohol the following medications can prove deadly:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Cough Syrup
  • Sleeping Pills
  • Pain medication
  • Anxiety or depression medication
  • Some herbal remedies

Always check with a pharmacist about potential drug interactions when taking any medication, remedy or supplement.  Adults over the age of 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should not have more than 3 drinks in a single day and no more than 7 drinks in a week.

Problem drinking often accompanies depression in older adults and can stem from major life changes including the death of a loved-one, a move to a new home or declining health.  If someone you know shows signs of alcohol addiction, start by taking with their doctors.  For more information about alcohol abuse in the elderly and resources for families visit the National Institute on Aging website at: .