Did you know that at least 2 billion people across the globe indulge in alcoholic beverages? While that may not be too surprising, the CDC conducted a survey showing that some men 65 and older were drinking 15 drinks in a week while women of the same age were having at least eight. Given that fact, drinking alcohol is still often seen as a normal part of everyday life for many people and that’s because it is.
While there isn’t anything too out of place with indulging in a drink, it can pose an issue as we get older. At least a third of older adults have an issue with alcohol abuse later in their life. Unfortunately, your life expectancy can decrease if you consistently abuse alcohol due to the chance of developing alcoholism along with other potential problems or illnesses.
We’re going to talk about alcohol as we age, what it does to our body, and the symptoms of alcoholism. We will also discuss how to drink with safety and the age of our bodies in mind so make sure to keep reading.
How Does Our Body Handle Alcohol as We Age?
Alcohol is processed by the liver and quickly breaks down into water, carbon dioxide, and energy. The water content in alcohol is significantly low, however, so it dehydrates the body. So, alcohol interferes with the function of the brain, making it harder to think clearly. It also interferes with the body’s metabolic rate.
Here’s the problem, as we get older, our bodies metabolize alcohol a little slower. This means that we have a higher blood alcohol content, which also means we have a higher risk of experiencing dizziness, nausea, and impaired judgment faster than others of potentially a younger age.
This isn’t to say that a senior will always feel the effects of alcohol faster. It’s simply the way that our bodies generally work. When we drink alcohol, our bloodstream transports it to our liver, brain, kidneys, etc. quite quickly. As we get older the amount of water in our body will start to decrease. Also, muscle mass is often replaced by fat as we age. All of this contributes to our blood alcohol concentration.
What Can Happen if We Overdrink as an Older Adult?
Basically, if you overdrink alcohol, you could experience several problems. One of them is an increased risk of falls due to the potential of altered balance skills. This could lead to multiple injuries for some. If you are consistently drinking too much, you also run the risk of developing a condition known as alcoholism. This is when the brain is so used to consuming alcohol that it can’t function normally without it.
Alcoholism is a serious condition and can lead to a wide range of issues including depression, social withdrawal, relationship problems, organ damage, and an increased risk of death. People that consistently abuse alcohol can experience a decrease in quality of life and an increase in health problems. Overall, drinking excessively can cause poor muscle function, poor coordination, and an increased risk of developing a number of different conditions.
General Effects of Drinking on the Body
Knowing a few of the basics as a senior in Florida could also help with understanding the effects that alcohol can have as we age. Alcohol metabolizes through the liver and the process of metabolizing alcohol results in the toxin acetaldehyde being broken down. This toxin is well-known to cause headaches in people with a predisposition to them. It can also cause joint pain due to its inflammatory effects.
Drinking too much alcohol can also cause a drop in blood pressure and an increase in triglycerides (fats in the blood). Excessive alcohol consumption can also alter blood sugar levels, leading to a condition known as insulin resistance. This can cause several diabetic-like effects including an increased risk of developing a condition called diabetic kidney disease. Excess alcohol consumption can also lead to an increased risk of developing a condition called fatty liver. It occurs when liver cells are abnormally enlarged.
Signs of Alcoholism in Older Adults: What to Look Out for
As we discussed, alcoholism is when someone consumes alcohol excessively and develops a dependence on it. An older adult that regularly drinks alcohol runs the risk of developing alcoholism as well. And while we briefly touched on what this illness is, you should also be aware of specific symptoms related to it so you know what to look out for. Especially since at least 21,000 seniors over the age of 65 die from it every year. Several warning signs can indicate someone is abusing alcohol. People who abuse alcohol can experience increased thirst, a decreased need to urinate, and a dry mouth.
They may also experience nausea, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, and a rapid heart rate. Additionally, heavy drinking can make preexisting conditions worse. For example, alcohol can cause flare-ups of existing skin conditions. If that wasn’t enough, you should also pay attention to mood and how someone acts socially. Heavy drinking can cause changes in social habits and increase moodiness or irritability.
The Bottom Line
With so many people drinking and the prevalence of the occasional celebratory drink, it can be hard to realize if and when there’s anything wrong. But it’s important to remember that alcohol has both benefits and risks for older adults that should be taken into consideration. If you consume alcohol, be sure to balance it out with healthy foods and water so you lessen the chance of feeling the effects too harshly, and consider limiting the number of drinks you have per week.
Be aware that as we get older, our bodies metabolize alcohol a little slower. As a key takeaway, if you are a senior in Florida, keep in mind that alcohol can cause changes in our blood pressure and insulin levels, which can lead to issues like diabetes, fatty liver, and an increased risk of a condition called alcoholic hepatitis. While alcohol can be fun to drink, it should always be had in moderation and with your safety in mind.