November 2010

Older Adults and Alcohol Use

You may not think twice about having a drink now and then as you get older. But alcohol can be a serious problem for older adults, especially if you take certain medications, have health problems or don’t control your drinking.

Aging lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol, so older adults can develop problems even though their drinking habits haven’t changed. “Older adults can experience the effects of alcohol, such as slurred speech and lack of coordination, more quickly than when they were younger,” says Dr. Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Drinking too much alcohol can also make many health conditions worse. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, memory problems and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Alcohol Use and Older Adults, a new topic on NIHSeniorHealth, provides helpful information about the effect alcohol can have on our bodies, health and lifestyles as we age. You can find it at http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/toc.html. The pages also discuss how much is safe to drink for most older men and women, what precautions to take if you’re on medication and how to get help if drinking is a problem.