How Drinking Affects Aging

If you’ve always been a light drinker, limiting yourself to a glass of wine in social situations, you might think you have nothing to worry about. After all, a wealth of medical information supports actual health benefits from moderate wine drinking. For instance, some studies have proven that drinking red wine may protect the heart.

But as you age, you may want to reevaluate your alcohol intake. Drinking can be worse for seniors in many ways. While a drink every once in a while won’t hurt you, studies show most people underestimate how much they drink. Here’s what drinking does to you as you reach your old age:

Alcohol Tolerance Declines with Age

Due to hormonal and body composition changes, most seniors’ tolerance for alcohol is lower than when they were young. Whether you’re a man or a woman, hormonal shifts can increase your sensitivity to alcohol. And as you get  older, your muscles break down and your fat to muscle ratio changes. For that reason, your blood alcohol content is higher, even if you drink the same amount as you always did. The effect slows down your reaction time and motor ability, which are already reducing from age.

Drinking Puts You at Risk of Falling

Even if you don’t become intoxicated, just having slightly higher blood alcohol content can increase the risk of accidents. Poor balance becomes more common with age, and even social drinking can make you lose your balance and fall. Seniors are more likely to sustain serious injuries, such as hip fractures, from falling. They also face longer recovery periods.

Alcohol Interacts with Medications

This is not something to take lightly: alcohol can interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter drug. Drinking can reduce or intensify the drug’s intended effect. It can also intensify unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Plus, your liver function decreases with age, and alcohol affects it too. If it can’t work at its optimal level, it will take longer to break down your medications, leaving you with the side effects for a longer duration.

Alcohol may Disrupt Your Sleep

Many seniors have trouble sleeping, and if you’re one of them you may think a nightcap will help you fall asleep. Studies show it can actually do the opposite, especially if you drink right before you go to bed. Drinking can worsen your insomnia by disrupting your sleep patterns.

Alcohol is a Diuretic

Diuretics are agents that cause you to urinate more. If you don’t drink enough water to replenish what you lose, you can get dehydrated quickly. Seniors are already at a higher risk of dehydration, since the body loses some of its ability to sense thirst and conserve water.

Alcohol can be Addictive

Even if you’ve never had a problem with drinking, an addiction can develop late in life. If you find yourself drinking more than you want to, talk to your doctor about ways to help you stop.

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