The Connections Between Ageing and Alcohol
These days, we often hear good things about alcohol and ageing. The research is clear: moderate drinking is okay for older women. This means no more than one standard drink a day (such as one 12 ounce beer or a 5 ounce glass of wine), and is only true if you are not on pain medication, tranquillizers, or other drugs.
About 1 in 12 older women has a serious problem with alcohol. Many have had this problem for a long time. But for many others, the problem is new. Drinking too much can affect women of all age levels, but there are specific things that older women should watch out for.
Nutrition: Drinking can often make you feel much less like eating. Alcohol also blocks your body's ability to absorb and use vitamins. This can lead to poor nutrition, which puts your body under stress.
Accidents: You can be more susceptible to falls and fractures. This isn't because you're "falling down drunk" but because alcohol can weaken muscles and damage nerves.
As is true for anyone, drinking can also affect your driving. Studies have shown that drinking-related accidents that cause injury and death are a significant problem for seniors. And injuries caused by car accidents tend to be more serious for seniors than for younger people.
Drinking alcohol while on medication: Over 150 common drugs and medications can adversely interact with alcohol: antibiotics, aspirin, pain killers, and sedatives such as Valium. The list also includes common medications for blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, and stomach conditions. Many over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies can also cause problems if you drink while taking them.
Studies show that women over the age of 65 are the most likely age group to be prescribed sedatives. If your doctor gives you sedatives, talk with him/her or your pharmacist about whether there are any risks if you drink alcohol while taking your prescription.
Memory problems: Drinking too much can make it difficult for you to remember things that happened recently. This memory loss is not due to ageing.
Body chemistry changes: As you grown older your body goes through major changes in metabolism. You produce less of the chemical that breaks down alcohol, and your liver and kidneys work more slowly. As a result, alcohol remains in your body much longer, causing damage.
Stomach problems: You can get stomach problems from drinking, including indigestion, gastritis, and ulcers. Alcohol also significantly increases your chances of developing mouth or stomach cancer.
Depression: Some older women drink to cope with loneliness, depression, and anxiety. But depression can arise from one's alcohol use, instead of alleviating it.
Abuse: Alcohol use can also be connected to abuse of seniors. Sometimes when "friends" or family drink they can become violent or emotionally abusive. They may even become financially abusive and take money away from you. When older women are under the influence of alcohol, clear decision making is more difficult, making them more vulnerable to remaining in abusive situations. And older women may also overuse alcohol to cope with the shame or guilt they feel about abuse done to them.
http://www.bcceas.ca/alcohol.shtml Charmaine Spencer..Sue McGowan..Nancy Poole..Womens Addiction Foundation