Ask Joan: Consuming alcohol as we age is common but may come with new risks
March 20, 2023
Tags: Resources

Q: My husband and I usually drink a few glasses of wine each week along with the occasional beer, but I’ve heard different things about risk factors around drinking and aging. We are in our early 70s – what should we know?

Joan Hatem-Roy, CEO of AgeSpan

A: Drinking alcohol is common among older adults, and nearly half of adults aged 65 and older report drinking alcohol in the past year, according to research.

Alcohol is common, and many people drink socially at events or parties, with dinner, and also to cope with stress or other factors. Some even drink for the perceived positive health effects.

Drinking and alcohol-related problems are less common in older adults than in younger people, but alcohol use in older adulthood does bring specific risks for seniors, according to a recent article from the National Council on Aging. Some evidence even suggests that older drinkers may be less aware of these effects.

As we age, changes to our body composition and ability to metabolize alcohol means that alcohol affects older adults more severely when they drink.

The Centers for Disease Control says drinking can lead to weight gain, insomnia, and other problems like an increased risk of falls, dangerous medication interactions, high blood pressure, stroke, increased risk of cancer, and, in more severe cases, liver disease and early mortality.

To avoid risk to your health – at any age – it’s important to limit alcohol use. The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends men have 2 drinks or less per day and 1 drink or less in a day for women. Alcohol should be avoided completely if you take medication that interacts with alcohol or are planning to drive.

Enjoying a drink with friends or family may contribute to fostering social connection and a sense of enjoyment, but limiting your overall intake is a recipe for healthy aging.

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